June 15, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: After CIF playoff loss, Crean Lutheran coach says ‘our program is on the rise’

Ben Byszewski of Crean Lutheran breaks free for a touchdown Friday night. (Photos courtesy Crean Lutheran Shutterbugs, John Luciano and Howard Lyon).

Crean Lutheran High School’s football team fell behind early and could not recover, losing to Simi Valley 27-7 in the CIF Division 6 quarterfinals Friday night in Simi Valley.

Crean Lutheran finished the season 8-4 overall.

“We ran into a very well-coached and excellent football team in Simi Valley last Friday night,” said Crean Lutheran Coach Rick Curtis. “We got behind early after a couple of turnovers and were unable to recover as we had done in several games throughout the season, including last week’s comeback upset victory over Hart. 

“Simi Valley’s active defense loaded up in stopping the run after we had rushed for 275 yards in our first-round CIF playoff game. Take nothing away from Simi Valley, but we just didn’t seem to have the energy to match them on the offensive side of the ball. Our special teams units had two breakdowns that led to two scores, which was very uncharacteristic of us.”

To see the slide show, click on the first photo:

The Saints had some big plays on special teams, a 92-yard punt return for a touchdown by Ben Byszewski, and more than 200 yards on kickoff returns by Robert Smith a (long of 75 yards), Javari Nash and Byszewski. 

“Our defensive unit played very well and kept us in the game with multiple stops during the contest,” Curtis said. “We were pleased with the play of our whole defensive unit, most notably, Javari Nash (10 solo tackles, one assist), Carter Jones (seven solo tackles, seven assists), and Mason McCullough (nine solo tackles, one assist). Taurian Nash, Anthony Jones, and Tyler Parker each had a sack to help thwart drives into our end of the field by the Pioneers.”

Curtis said the season was successful for the Saints.

“Overall, it was a great year for our program, even though we were extremely disappointed in not playing our best game on Friday night,” Curtis said. “Although not capturing the goals of an Empire League championship or a CIF championship, we feel our program is on the rise, jumping six divisions in just a two-year span and rising into the top echelon of the difficult Empire League. 

“This was a very young team as there will be several returning starters to the 2024 team, but we will definitely miss our seniors who played key roles in our success during this season. We also have a lot of underclassmen poised and ready to compete for positions offensively, defensively, and within our special teams units. Our JV squad went 8-2 this season and our freshmen were 10-0, with both teams securing Empire League championships, so we are excited for the future of the Saints football program.”

Simi Valley (6-5) moves on to the semifinals to host Huntington Beach Friday night.