Hart So Good In CIF D-III Finals

Valencia tailback Charles Burnley took the handoff on the game's second play, juked right, broke two tackles and tore down the left sideline, destined for pay dirt 80 yards away. But when he was hauled down at the Hart 15-yard line, all hope of a Viking upset went down with him. Three plays later, Keith Howell made an easy pick of a Colin Carey pass and Hart was on its way to the 42-13 rout – its fourth straight CIF title -- before an overflow crowd of 12,000 fans at College of the Canyons.

"We were on the 10-yard line," Burnley said. "I thought we should have run the ball, but the coach called a pass play. But I should have been gone [on the long run]. I was surprised I got caught."

Hart (13-0), ranked No. 4 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and No. 30 nationally in the Student Sports FAB 50, took over at its own six-yard line and marched straight down the field. The 94-yard drive, which included a 50-yard scoring run by Micky Mercado that was called back for a clip, culminated in a Matt Moore to Chris Steck 15-yard touchdown strike with 4:29 left in the first.

The Indians added two more second quarter scores, as the first half turned into the Matt Moore personal showcase. The senior signal caller, who has committed to UCLA, threw, ran, played safety on obvious passing downs and punted, once pinning Valencia back on its own one-yard line. Heck, he even caught a pass he threw, gaining three yards on the deflection. By the time the half came, Moore had thrown for 121 yards, including a 78-yard catch and run for a score to Howell; and had rushed for 98 yards, highlighted by a 50-yard scamper down the right sideline for the game's second score.

Meanwhile, Valencia, behind the running of Burnley and Carey, was able to move the ball on the ground against the Hart defense. But the Vikings seemed to shoot themselves in the foot every time they got in a position to score. On the first drive it was the interception near the goal line. Another drive ended with a sack by defensive end Tony Leko and Mercado thwarted a third incursion into Hart territory with a pick of his own.

Still, down 21-0 at halftime, Valencia had a chance to make a game of it in the second half, but couldn't capitalize. After forcing Hart to go three-and-out on its initial possession, the Vikings forged into Hart territory down to the 28 on some nice running by Burnley, who finished with 153 yards on 17 carries. But the drive stalled when Mike Linn sacked Carey near midfield.

Taking over at its six-yard line, the Indians needed only seven plays to move down the field. When Moore hit a wide open Julian Lewis with a 26-yard touchdown pass to make it 28-0 midway through the third quarter, the game was essentially over. The teams traded touchdowns the rest of the way, but Valencia, which lost to Hart, 26-0, during the regular season, could get no closer than 21 points the rest of the way.

Moore completed 14-of-16 passes for 277 yards and four touchdowns in his final game. He also rushed for 95 yards on 15 tries.

"Oh my God; it's the best feeling," a jubilant Moore said after the game. "We executed perfectly. I can't even explain how I feel right now. Winning this championship is very special to me. Last year I played defense, which wasn't my prime position. This year, I wanted to show people what I could do. I think I did it."

Mercado also had a fine all-around game for Hart, compiling 80 yards on the ground on 11 carries, catching three passes for 48 yards and snaring one interception.

Aside from Burnley, Valencia's other bright spot was the running of Carey. The senior quarterback amassed 61 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. But he struggled through the air on a blustery evening, completing just 9-of-19 passes for 66 yards. He was intercepted three times.

"Of course you want to be a CIF champion," Burnley said. "But to be here was a kick for me. I've never been in to a high school championship in my life. It was a great experience."

For Hart, the question is whether the Indians will attempt to move up in divisions after ruling Div. III for four years, or at least schedule games against Div. I competition.

"We won Div. II in 1995 and then they dropped us down," coach Mike Herrington explained. "We've been in Div. II before. Whatever CIF does, that's what we follow. This is the first year we didn't schedule a Div. I school. We played Loyola for six years straight. We've been playing D-I. But you don't want to load up your schedule with D-I schools and then die during league because you've got everyone hurt."

Herrington added that this title was among his most satisfying.

"The kids worked hard," he said. "It's just tough to repeat each time. The guys were just focused and they had an agenda and they followed it all the way to the championship game."

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