PLEASANT HILL, Calif. -- Last time the Concord (Calif.) Minutemen and Concord (Calif.) Clayton Valley met, the Ugly Eagles escaped with a 48-40 road win, and all signs pointed to Friday night’s CIF NCS Division II title game being yet another barn burner.
Half of that was true. Clayton Valley’s Miles Harrison once again ran wild on the Minutemen, and while he didn’t equal his 336-rushing yard performance from Week Eight, he did peel off 287 yards on the ground (206 in the first half), with three touchdowns as the Ugly Eagles cruised to a 33-6 win over Concord at Diablo Valley College.
“I thought they were going to be more prepared, and more ready to stop it, but our O-line, it’s hard to stop us when we’re going full-speed ahead,” Harrison said.
“I thought they were really prepared,” Clayton Valley head coach Tim Murphy said of the Minutemen’s defense. “I thought they played really good defense. We got a couple creases, Miles made some nice plays, our O-line held together really well, but they did really well, but I think our defense was the key to this game.”
While the junior college-bound Harrison was certainly the headliner, the yeoman’s work was done by the Ugly Eagles (14-0) defense, which held Concord (12-2) – who came in averaging 51.7 points per game – to just a single second-quarter touchdown on a seven-yard slant from Mitch Daniels to Malik Blackburn.
“Usually, our offense gets all the headlines, but the defense went lights-out tonight,” Murphy said. “It was one of the best games we had all year.”
The Ugly Eagles defense was paced by the brothers Peralta – senior linebacker Rich Peralta and junior free safety Jake Peralta.
“Both Peraltas, you hear their names all the time, because they’re in on every tackle,” Murphy said.
Jake recorded two of Clayton Valley’s three interceptions on the night – with Drew Crabbe coming up with a third – and Rich added a pass breakup and a quarterback pressure, marching ever closer to the Ugly Eagles single-season tackles record.
“Rich is about 15 tackles away from our school record,” Murphy said. “He’s got about 150 tackles, and I think the school record is 170, so he’s about 15, 20 away.”
Justin Zapanta started off the scoring by hauling in a 71-yard touchdown grab with 10:13 left in the first quarter. Concord drove down inside the Clayton Valley 10, but Daniels – who came in with 52 touchdown passes on the season – threw incomplete to Mason Knight (5 catches for 35 yards) at the goal line.
On the first play of the ensuing Ugly Eagles drive, Harrison popped the first of his three 40-plus-yard touchdowns, ripping off a 96-yard score with 6:07 left in the first stanza.
“I saw that open hole, one of the biggest holes I’ve seen all year, and no safety, so I just had to hit it,” Harrison said. “I just kept going.”
The run was Harrison’s second-longest of the season, after a 97-yarder in the season opener.
Concord neared midfield on its next drive, and went for it on fourth-and-six, only for Rich Peralta to sniff out a four-yard drag route and stop the Minutemen just shy of the conversion.
Once again, Clayton Valley and Harrison struck quickly, with the 5-foot-9, 205-pound back rumbling for 59 yards and a score with 2:01 left in the half. After the two-point conversion, the Ugly Eagles held a commanding 21-0 lead.
A long return by Blackburn set up a grinding drive by Concord, punctuated by a 32-yard completion to Jed Gwynn (5 catches for 106 yards). With second-and-15 at the Clayton Valley 28, Daniels was dropped on a sack by JuCo-bound defensive end Sean Vaisima. After a screen pass to Knight lost five yards, Daniels’s next pass was deflected, turning the ball over on downs.
“My D-end just made him walk up to me, so I saw him come, I got open, I shed a block and I made the tackle,” said Vaisima, who, like Harrison, spoke with Laney College coaches during the postgame celebration. He said that he will attend either Diablo Valley College or Laney, if teammate Khalil McKenzie can’t get him a scholarship or walk-on spot at Tennessee.
Concord junior defensive end De'Andre Morgan came up with with a big tackle for loss, but two plays later, on third-and-16, Harrison popped an eight-yard run to set up fourth-and-eight. Knight turned in a breakup to force a turnover on downs, but Clayton Valley quickly got the ball back on the Crabbe interception.
A 16-yard run by Harrison gave the Ugly Eagles first-and-10 at the Concord 17, and after two short runs, Clayton Valley decided to go for a little trickeration, serving a direct snap to fullback Jax Carter while quarterback Nate Keisel feigned a bad snap. Carter – who hadn’t played in five weeks – rumbled in easily to the end zone for his fourth touchdown of the season, with 1:33 left in the half, putting the Ugly Eagles up, 27-0.
“Before the play, they were calling, ‘Hey, watch the trap!’ but we had a good fake by our quarterback and our running back, and that play doesn’t happen without the guys up front,” Carter said. “It was an excellent block, and I followed the ball in, and we scored. I lined up right behind the center, so it was an angled snap right to me. I stayed low, they snapped it to me, and it was off to the races.”
“I knew Jax would get in,” Murphy said. “He finally practiced really well this week, so I knew that, when we got inside the 10, we were going to give him the ball and he was going to score.”
Daniels then led a 76-yard scoring drive to get the Minutemen on the board with 27.1 seconds left in the half, but Concord didn’t sniff the end zone again.
Jake Peralta and Nathaniel Ewing halted the first two Minutemen drives of the second half, with Peralta notching a pick and Ewing defending a 30-yard pass to Blackburn in the end zone, setting up a four-play all-Harrison drive. After two carries for six yards apiece, Harrison appeared to run for six more and a first down, but the ball was spotted a yard short. Harrison then got that yard and then some with a 49-yard touchdown for the final score, with 9.9 seconds left in the third quarter.
“We were actually just trying to get the first down,” Harrison smiled. “I had to cut back because they kept going laterally, and it was just open so I went and scored.”
Concord gained just 75 yards on offense after halftime.
Now, Clayton Valley’s future is in the hands of the state’s commissioners, who will fill the Northern California Division II regional title game slots on Sunday.
“Inderkum plays Oakdale tomorrow, and we’ll see whoever wins that game, and it’s between that winner and Enterprise,” said Murphy.