Cavaliers down Eagles for football’s Division III title

CVC wins Division III Valley Championship 27-25 with a last second field goal after Bakersfield Christian took the lead with under a minute left to go in the game

VISALIA – There are few games that “have it all,” but the Central Valley Christian title game was chalk full of excitement. There were comebacks, late lead changes and a player even lost his finger. All of which culminated in a last second game winning field goal to put CVC over the top 27-25 over Bakersfield Christian last Friday, Nov. 26.

Coming into the fourth quarter the Bakersfield Christian Eagles were down two touchdowns. But they put themselves back into the game when they converted a 4th and three and then caught a back-shoulder touchdown pass to cut the Cavaliers’ lead 24-17 with 9:15 left in the game.

The Cavaliers tried to seize back some of their momentum and got a lucky break while staring down a 4th and three when the Eagles jumped offsides. But the Eagles got luckier when they forced a fumble on the very next play and took over at their own 33 yard line.

Driving down the field with intent to score the Eagles got in the redzone and faced a 4th and two from the CVC 15-yard line. Bakersfield quarterback Braden Waterman fell back against a heavy blitz and lofted it up to receiver Bryson Waterman for a touchdown. Unfortunately, Braden got hurt on the play and hobbled off the field.

Calling the offense is Valley royalty and former NFL quarterback David Carr, and he decided that tying the game wasn’t enough. He wanted to go for the win. Without his starting quarterback, Carr reached deep into the playbook and called a double reverse pass that could have gone bust when the snap was low, when the first pitch was bobbled, when the second pitch was bobbled, and when the receiver threw the ball into the back of the end zone while falling away. But despite all the couldas, wouldas and shouldas, the Eagles claimed the lead 25-24 with under a minute left.

With almost no wind in the CVC sails, the Cavaliers charged forward to get into scoring position. CVC quarterback Max Bakker was determined to win when he chucked it deep to receiver Jaeden Moore to put them close to the redzone.

Some strategic hardnose running, and even more strategic use of timeouts, left .6 seconds on the clock for CVC kicker Trent Koetsier to line up for a 26-yard field goal attempt. Admittedly, he “did not make many” while kicking for the junior varsity squad this year. Fortunately, he did have some success kicking on that end of the field when he knocked one through in the first quarter.

When given the chance this time, there was no doubt. The ball boomed off his foot and evenly split the uprights for the 27-25 final. Helmets went flying and players on the sideline rushed the field. Soon enough, Koetsier was hoisted on the team’s shoulders.

“Oh, I was just picturing it like in the movies when they’re all up and excited,” Koetsier said.

CVC lost to the Eagles in the 2019 Valley game, but head coach Mason Hughes said there was no sense of revenge between that game and this one.

“Honestly, we play each other every year, multiple times a year sometimes. So it’s like, you got to have a quick memory,” Hughes said.

While the game came down to a last second field goal after a late lead change, the entire game was a back and forth matchup. On their first possession CVC ate up over half a quarter of clock and gained less than half a field of yards. They’re drive of mostly runs stalled on third down at the 10-yard line when Bakker over threw his running back in the flat. Koetsier did convert the field goal, though, at least pulling something out of the drive with 5:36 left in the first quarter.

Bakersfield Christian didn’t waste any time at all when they got the and scored on the first play of their drive. Braden Waterman heaved it deep to his wide receiver, Dylan Johnson. Despite being interfered with Johnson caught the ball and ran it the rest of the way for a one play, 65-yard, touchdown score with 5:22 to go.

CVC’s crowd, who was slow to get into the game finally roared to life on a 3rd and five at the CVC 19-yard line, when they stopped the Eagles for no gain. They roared louder when they denied the Eagles a 4th down conversion and took over on their own 15 to all but end the first quarter.

CVC’s vigor died out when Bakker lobbed an interception at the beginning of the second quarter. Not that it was Bakker’s fault because Moore slipped on the route. That hurt the Cavs’ chances of recapturing the lead, and deeply hurt the sideline morale.

On the Eagles possession play had to be stopped for about 10 minutes when the top of a Bakersfield Christian player’s finger was sheared off. Players plus referees looked for it on the field at the CVC 15-yard line while the player was taken away in a ambulance. The player’s is unidentified here, but his finger was found on the field.

Bakersfield couldn’t end the drive with a touchdown but they did turn their interception into points with a field goal to go up 10-3 with 3:27 left in the half.

Cavaliers down Eagles for football’s Division III title
Trent Koetsier attempts the game winning field goal at CVC’s Division III Valley Championship game. Koetsier drilled the field goal to go up 27-25 in the final second of the game. CVC donning their championship hats and medals pose with the Valley Championship plaque.Photo by Susi Youngs

The Cavs looked like the polar opposite of themselves from the first drive of the game after getting the ball back. In three plays Bakker tossed the ball to Moore on a screen. A few stiff arms, blocks, 38 yards and a point after later, the Cavs tied things up 10-10 with 2:21 in the second quarter to go. The Cavs defense took the ball back on the next play from scrimmage when Braden’s pass was tipped and intercepted by CVC’s Caleb Callison.

It was three plays after that when Bakker connected 29 yards with Josh Noeske for a touchdown up the seam. Moore put the finishing touches on the score when he took a jet sweep to the corner for the two-point conversion to go up 18-10 with 56 seconds to go.

CVC’s defense started the third quarter with a drive-ending sack to keep their momentum rolling from the first half.

Still, the first score of the second half didn’t come until 2:58 before it was over. The Cavs practically dominated time of possession and then struck gold when Bakker threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Brandt Munger who put a debilitating double move on the only corner covering him. A called back two-point conversation and missed point after attempt took some wind out of CVC’s sails but they were happy with a 24-10 advantage.

CVC was ahead for most of the fourth quarter until Bakersfield Christian came back to take the lead. But the Cavaliers regained their composure and came away with the Division III Valley Title.

The win earned them a ticket into the Division 4—AA state championship bracket. They will square off against the Serrano Dimondbacks at Serrano on Friday, Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m.

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