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C-H hands California costly Black Hills loss

| Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
California's Lester McGriff runs to daylight for the Trojans.
Rich Downer/For The Valley Independent
California's Lester McGriff runs to daylight for the Trojans.

The California football team may have outplayed Chartiers-Houston for most of their Black Hills conference contest Friday night, but the Trojans learned the hard way that losing the field position battle can be the difference between winning and losing.

And a 17-7 loss to the Buccaneers on the road severely damaged their playoff chances.

“You try to stay up and positive, knowing that we still have an outside shot at the playoffs,” California coach Bo Teets said. “But we're going to need help now; we don't have the luxury of controlling our own destiny. That being taken out of our hands now is tough to swallow.”

The Trojans (3-4, 3-4) used a bruising rushing attack and solid run defense to outgain the Bucs (5-2, 5-2), 224 yards to 209, but were unable to sustain drives.

Twice California was forced to start inside their own 10-yard line while both of Chartiers-Houston's touchdown drives began in Trojan territory.

“Giving teams short fields and turning the ball over is a recipe for disaster and we kind of did both tonight,” Teets said. “I thought we played well, we shut them down but it boiled down to making a play here and there that they made and we didn't.”

The first quarter was a field position chess match. After trapping the Trojans at their own one yard line, the Bucs broke through on their first drive of the second quarter, with a 29 yard touchdown pass from Caleb Susko to 6'4” playmaker Miles Williamson. On the very next possession, Wyatt Kincaid intercepted Austin Hunter to give the Bucs the ball at the California 16 and they scored four plays later.

But with seven minutes to go in the half, California found its groove. Ten straight rushing plays gave the Trojans a fourth and inches from Chartiers-Houston's 28 yard line. James Bongiorno took the handoff on a dive, cut to his left and raced up the sideline for a touchdown that brought California back into the game. Lester McGriff led the team in rushing with 85 yards on 15 attempts, with Hunter adding 57 yards on 13 carries and Demetri Clements and Bongiorno adding 52 yards on a combined 8 carries.

“We feel that we have a nice mix of skill guys that can hurt you in a bunch of different ways,” Teets said. “We try to spread the ball around so the defense can't focus on one guy. We feel that with our guys up front, we can compete with anybody. (Bongiorno) is just one of those kids in the mix that can really hurt you. He is a little more north and south than some of our other guys and can break some tackles. We're going to continue to feed him and Lester, Demetri and Hunter and continue to feature those guys and spring some plays.”

Bongiorno then tipped a punt on the ensuing three-and-out to give the Trojans the ball at the C-H 31-yard line with under a minute to play. But with no timeouts, the drive ended at the ten. It was the last time California would get close to scoring. Mike Cushmer's 34-yard field goal following a six-minute drive iced the game with just over two minutes to play.

“We just have to come back, regroup and learn from this,” Teets said. “We will see how the chips fall in the future, but we just need to go out and focus on getting better, every day. That's been our motto all year – every practice, every day, get a little better. We need to worry about Carlynton now, because we have to win.”

Donnie Tasser is a freelance writer.

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