Much can be said about the 2014-2015 version of the Santa Clarita Christian varsity football team. Most notably, these Cardinals are not your big brother’s Cardinals. The transformation from eight-man to 11-man football is undeniably complete; there is a new brand of football on display under the Saturday night lights of Harry Welch Stadium.
Led by senior quarterback Jonathan Saavedra, a three-year starter, the SCCS offensive attack is based on a pass-first, pass-second scheme. Judging by the rich collection of talent in the key position, it makes perfect sense.
Saavedra has blossomed this season and is emerging as a threat with enough arm strength and accuracy to cause opposing defenses to plan ahead. In the team’s first game of the season—a 68-20 win of Lutheran High (San Diego), Saavedra broke records for passing yards (527) and touchdown passes (seven) in a game. Two weeks later, against Mary Star of the Sea (San Pedro), he tossed another seven touchdown passes to go along with 434 yards through the air in a 49-48 win.
In the team’s first five games, Saavedra has completed 127-of-213 passes for 1,888 yards (a 14.9 yard per completion average) for 22 touchdowns and just 5 interceptions. Saavedra also leads the Cardinals (2-3) in rushing with 362 yards and three touchdowns.
The senior standout has not amassed such gaudy numbers in a vacuum, of course. All season, Saavedra’s favorite (and most dangerous) target has been fellow senior Cameron Lewis. The speedy wide receiver has dazzled with an acrobatic array of catches deep in the opponents’ territory. Through five games, Lewis has caught 38 passes for 612 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Completing the team’s dual threat at wideout is sophomore Jacob Moss. Moss isn’t the deep threat that Lewis is, but he has made his mark hauling in a bulk of Saavedra’s mid-range passes, hauling in 39 passes for 614 yards and four touchdowns.
Other contributors on offense have been junior running back Brody DeRevere (29-147 yards), junior receiver JonLuke Wilson (31 catches for 365 yards, two touchdowns) and freshman receiver Michael Uribe (11 catches for 239 yards, four touchdowns).
The SCCS offense has been explosive, averaging 35.4 points per game.
The team’s Achilles heel so far has been the defense, which is surrendering 34.6 points per game. The team has shown flashes; senior DJ King leads the team with 35 solo tackles and 79 overall. DeRevere has collected three sacks. But what has plagued the defense thus far has been the big play, as teams have found ways to connect on long passes or convert long runs to swing momentum in at least two of the Cardinals’ three losses.
The other hiccup has been the turnover.
Against an undefeated Cleveland High (Reseda), SCCS was driving for an opportunity to go up by two touchdowns late in the second quarterback when Cleveland forced a fumble and returned it 76 yards for a score. SCCS climbed to a 21-13 lead in the third, but saw the Cavaliers score 24 straight points in the second half to break it open.
The Cardinals are no team’s soft spot on the schedule, however. The explosiveness of its offense alone makes any game winnable. Coach Garrick Moss and company have frontloaded the schedule with challenging non-league opponents, which leaves plenty of room for optimism with league play set to begin Oct. 11.
The team is gunning for its first-ever San Joaquin League title this year, which would represent a significant step toward the program’s maturity into an 11-man power.
The Cardinals are growing up before our eyes.