The Desert Chapel Eagles’ playoff run came to an end Friday night with a tough 50-32 loss to the visiting Trinity Classical Academy Knights in the semifinals of the Southern Section Division II eight-man playoffs.
Missed opportunities, turnovers and untimely penalties plagued the Eagles all night long and had Desert Chapel coach Jim Donaldson describe the evening in one word.
“Frustrating. Overall the game was just frustrating,” Donaldson said. “From the start, we get down there on the 1-inch line, and we get a penalty for holding. That’s frustrating. We didn’t play as well as we are capable of. We had some costly penalties, some costly turnovers and in the end that really affected us.”
The Eagles drove into the red zone on their first four possessions but would only come out of it with a 9-yard touchdown pass from Evan Armendariz to Kyle Ettleman.
The Knights seized the missed opportunities by the Eagles and found the end zone on a 68-yard bomb from quarterback Colton Oshiro to junior Ryan Brooks, and with the two-point conversion Trinity Classical had an 8-6 lead to end the first quarter.
The offenses took over in the second quarter. After Oshiro-to-Brooks worked again for the Knights for 14-6 lead, Armendariz found the Eagles’ big tight end Roman Pellum who made two catches on the ensuing drive for 43 yards. Desert Chapel would cap the drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass to wide reciever Jaleel Miles from Armendariz to tie the score at 14.
And when the Eagles got the ball back after forcing a Knights three and out, Armendariz found Pellum racing to the end zone for the grab and the lead 20-14.
And just when it seemed that Desert Chapel had the momentum, the Knights scored on a third down with Oshiro under immense pressure. He threw a high pass that found its way into the hands of running back Spencer Klehn who took it in for the touchdown.
The Eagles claimed the lead back with Ettleman’s second touchdown grab of the night.
But just before the end of the first half, the Knights put together a drive that resulted in a 10-yard touchdown pass from Oshiro to Patch Kulp who also ran in the two-point conversion for the halftime lead 28-26.
“We thought we were going to come out and take care of it in the second half,” Donaldson said. “But we gave them good field position the whole second half, especially in the fourth quarter. And when you do that, it makes it difficult to come back.”
On Trinity Classical’s first possession of the second half, with a third-and-12 from their own 13-yard line, Oshiro found tight end Eli Skorich who rumbled 67 yards to the 1-yard line. The Knights would need four down but Oshiro found Brooks for his third touchdown and a 34-26 lead.
In the fourth quarter, Desert Chapel put together a solid drive that ended with running back Ethan Skarmas pushing it in from the 1-yard line. But Armendariz’s pass fell short for the two-point conversion so the Eagles still trailed 34-32.
Then after Desert Chapel forced the Knights too punt, on the very first play Armendariz’s pass over the middle was picked off. Trinity Classical turned that into points with a 30-yard run by Kulp, making the score 42-26.
The Knights’ Brooks would add an interception to his ledger on the Eagles’ next possession. The Knights added a touchdown run by Klehn to seal the deal and send Trinity Classical to the finals.
“We just came together as a unit and played tough all night long. I have nine seniors that didn’t want to lose in the semis for the third year in a row,” Trinity Classical Academy coach Mike Buchanan said. “We showed them a new offense that we haven’t shown anybody all year in that single wing. That’s what helped us a lot. They wanted it bad tonight.”
Armendariz finished with 30 completions and 163 yards and four touchdowns. The junior Ettleman had 11 catches for 99 yards and two touchdowns, while Miles had a game-high 12 grabs for 88 yards and a touchdown. And the senior Pellum who had double-digits in tackles, also caught six balls for 87 yards and a touchdown
“I played my heart out tonight. I went out and did my best as did my team,” Pellum said through tears. “We just fell short. We didn’t deserve to win this.”
The Eagles end the season 10-1 and for coach Donaldson, the future looks bright.
“We are so proud of this team and what we’ve become. We’re an excellent program,” Donaldson added. “These players have helped work this program into a perennial high-round playoff team. It’s here to stay and I’m proud of the seniors for paving the path.”