Sierra Canyon opens big lead before beating Norco

Dominic Arango-Serna, listed at 5 feet 10 and 165 pounds, was having the time of his life in the first quarter for Chatsworth Sierra Canyon on Friday night against Norco. He resembled a teenager having fun on a Slip ‘N Slide except the Calabasas High turf wasn’t wet.

First there was a 66-yard touchdown catch in which he slipped a tackler and raced untouched to the end zone. Then there was an 80-yard touchdown catch in which he caught the ball at the 42, went right, cut left, went right again and dragged a defender into the end zone.

“To be honest, I was trying anything I could to get into the end zone,” he said. “It was definitely fun. Big yards, big plays.”

There was a 90-yard return with a fumble by Kamari Ramsey. Defensive end Ezekiel Larry recovered the fumble, then lost it on the ground. That’s when the faster Ramsey picked it up. That’s called brains power and explains why Ramsey is headed to Stanford and Larry is going to Yale.

It was that kind of inspiring night for the Trailblazers (3-2), who rolled to a 35-21 victory over Norco and helped keep themselves in contention for one of the eight Southern Section Division 1 playoff spots.

Sierra Canyon held a 28-0 lead at the outset of the second quarter and went into halftime leading 35-14. The Trailblazers’ defense forced Norco (4-1) to abandon its rushing attack, holding Jaydn Ott to 21 yards in 10 carries in the first half. Both Norco touchdowns came on runs by quarterback Kyle Crum.

Crum kept the pressure on in the second half, completing a nine-yard touchdown pass to Grant Gray at the end of the third quarter to cut the Cougars’ deficit to 35-21. Crum passed for 218 yards and ran for 65 yards. Ott was limited to 34 yards in 16 carries.

Sierra Canyon has lost to No. 3 Anaheim Servite, No. 4 Corona Centennial and plays No. 9 Mission Viejo next week. The Trailblazers have been competitive but not productive enough so far this season to beat the top teams. Taking down No. 5 Norco is a breakthrough win. Quarterback Daniel Duran completed 10 of 17 passes for 243 yards. Arango-Serna caught two passes for 146 yards. Jason Jones rushed for 96 yards.

“It was must win,” Arango-Serna said. “We’re trying to fix little errors we shouldn’t have and it showed tonight.”

Whether it’s depth or a weaker offensive line, the second half has been where the Trailblazers have failed to keep pace unlike last spring, when they gave Bellflower St. John Bosco a strong game and ended up with a 4-1 record.

“We didn’t score in the second half,” coach Jon Ellinghouse told his team afterward. “That’s not cool.”

It doesn’t mean Sierra Canyon isn’t making progress. The Trailblazers’ decision to play the best is preparing the team for next season, when they move to the powerful Mission League. The game next week against Mission Viejo could help them lock up a Division 1 playoff spot.

Sierra Canyon offensive lineman Kenji Swanson, who has committed to Stanford, saw his first action of the season in the first half. A big defensive play was made by Caden Harman on Norco’s opening drive of the third quarter. He stopped Crum on fourth down on Sierra Canyon’s 28.

There are those who think Norco’s 38-36 win over Corona Centennial last spring, ending the Huskies’ 57-game league winning streak, might be a fluke. Cease that silly discussion. The Cougars are a combined 9-1 during the spring and fall seasons and headed on a collision course to visit Centennial on Oct. 15. They’re playing with the big boys now.

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