After a haunting start to its season, the rising La Quinta football team achieved its annual rite on Friday night, securing a playoff berth with a 23-14 road win over Xavier Prep.
The regular season closing win for the Blackhawks clinched a third place finish at worst in league play and marked the 20th consecutive season in which La Quinta has advanced to the postseason. Following an 0-4 start to the year amid a tough non-conference slate, the Blackhawks have now won four of their past five games.
“Once you hit the playoffs, anything can happen,” said La Quinta head coach Dan Armstrong. “The playoffs are funny. We been there every single year, never missed it, and that’s something that we’re very proud of.”
Junior running back Benji Cordova was an animal for the victors, rushing for 230 grounds yards and three touchdowns. This coming on the heels of his 300-yard-plus effort last week. Come the onset of CIF two weeks’ hence, La Quinta aims to be running with even further firepower.
“Hopefully, in the playoffs, we’ll get back our starting quarterback, Michael Avina, from injury,” Armstrong added. “Andrew (Garcia) has done a very good job, but it (Avina at quarterback) just opens up some things that we’re able to do.”
Despite sporting just six seniors on this year’s squad, Armstrong knows the playoffs presents an opportunity for fast maturation.
“There have been some times where we’ve been the No. 1 seed and been knocked off by third place teams, so we know it can be done,” said Armstrong. “We just need to get a little more explosive, and that will happen if Michael is able to play in the playoffs.”
Star of the Game
Benji Cordova: After his 75-yard performance in the opening half, La Quinta truly churned on Cordova’s 155-yard second half effort. After Xavier cut the deficit to 16-14 with just over 10 minutes to play, Cordova ran 11 times in La Quinta’s ensuing, 14 play drive capped with his 1-yard touchdown to author the final margin.
Fabrice Voyne: The Saints’ freshman wideout evidenced skills that will give DVL opponents fits in years to come. On the night, Voyne finished with seven catches for 84 yards and scored both of Xavier’s touchdown.
With a final week bye, La Quinta (4-6, 4-2 DVL) concluded its conference season and will now await its CIF playoff opponent. Xavier Prep (3-6, 2-3) travels to Palm Desert for its “Kings of Cook Street” rivalry game next Friday at 7 p.m.