By DAN ALBANO
ANAHEIM - Ryan Saumur soared into the end zone from 1 yard with 1:17
left in the fourth quarter to help the Cypress football program reach new
heights Friday night. The versatile senior scored the go-ahead points and the
Centurions´ defense held one last time as Cypress stunned fourth-seeded
Valencia, 28-21, in a Southern Division semifinal game at a soggy and muddy
Western High. The victory sends the unseeded Centurions - an at-large selection
to the playoffs from the Empire League - to the finals for the first time.
Cypress (9-3) could face longtime rival Kennedy or Pacifica in the championship
Saumur scored on a dive over the pile on a third-and-goal play that featured defensive lineman Chace Packard as part of the blocking scheme. The score and Saumur´s extra-point gave Cypress a 28-21 lead. It also made Valencia pay for another costly turnover. Cypress got the chance for the score after Valencia (8-3-1) lost a fumble on a first-and-goal play from the Cypress´ 5-yard line with 4:11 left. Valencia coach Mike Marrujo said the blast play was designed for running back Wes Fletcher but free safety Toscaleneo Morris scooped up the fumble at his 11.
Fletcher finished with 226 yards, giving him 5,732 yards - fifth on the county list. "It was a miracle, sir," Morris said of the play. "The character of our kids is never quitting," Cypress coach Ray Fenton said. "They kept fighting and fighting and something good happened." Cypress responded with an 89-yard scoring drive that received a major spark on the third play from quarterback Mike Vanderipe.The senior broke a 60-yard run to move the ball to Valencia´s 14. Five plays later, Saumur scored. Vanderipe had success running the option all game and finished with 178 yards.
After Saumur´s 19th touchdown of the season, Cypress´ defense made a final stop at its 32 as time expired. Cypress´ defense forced three turnovers, which led to 14 points. The Centurions, meanwhile, didn´t commit a turnover. "We lost the game for ourselves. We know it," Marrujo said. "They´re a good football team and against a good ballclub, you can not do that." Cypress tied the score, 21-21, in dramatic fashion, too. With seven seconds left in the third quarter, Vanderipe scored on a 1-yard run to cap a quick, 64-yard drive in the final 1:14. of the third. The drive was sparked by a 72-yard completion from Vanderipe to Saumur on an inside receiver screen. After a holding penalty, Saumur took a short pass and raced down the Cypress sideline to Valencia´s 2-yard line, setting up Vanderipe´s second touchdown run.