Today’s Ventura, CA, Star carried the following article on the amazing season Grace Brethren High’s Simi Valley team is having. John McIntosh is pastor of the sponsoring church.
A graceful rise through the ranks
From eight-man to Division XI, Grace Brethren will be playing in its fourth different final in the last five years
By Derry Eads
December 6, 2005
From losing in the eight-man large schools championship game to butting heads with the 10th-ranked team in the state twice in the same season.
The world of Grace Brethren High football has made a remarkable transformation in a short time.
In what may be a state football first, Grace Brethren (11-2) has qualified for its fourth final in as many divisions in five years.
Bumped up to Division XI after winning the 2004 Division XII championship, Grace Brethren will take an 11-game winning streak into Saturday’s 7 p.m. CIF-Southern Section Division XI final at Newbury Park against two-time champion Oaks Christian (12-0), winner of 30 consecutive games.
Shortly after losing to Faith Baptist in the 2001 CIF eight-man large schools final, Grace Brethren joined the Delphic League as an 11-man program. The Lancers lost to Pasadena Poly in the 2002 Division XIII championship game and 2003 semifinals. Last fall, Grace Brethren upset No. 1 seed Ontario Christian, 34-6, on the road in the XII final.
Grace Brethren’s four-year record in 11-man football is 45-9 (83.3 percent).
“It has been amazing to see the progression,” said Grace Brethren coach and athletic director Terry Gourley.
“There were teams that waved the white flag that first year (2002) of 11-man football. I remember not knowing whether teams would show up for games (JSerra forfeited last year).”
In last week’s semifinals, Grace Brethren, which has a school enrollment of 220, beat San Jacinto (1,700 students), 20-7.
The latest MaxPreps.com had small school Grace Brethren ranked No. 134 in its state power rankings.
“When the season’s over,” said Gourley, “we’ll sit down and wonder: ‘Did that go by fast or did that go by slow?'”
Gourley believes the perception of Grace Brethren football has changed dramatically in the past year.
“We were a program with a large number of victories, but people weren’t really sure about us,” said Gourley. A 2-1 record against Division XI teams (losing to Oak Park by one point) helped sway some believers. Grace Brethren’s 28-point win over Ontario Christian in the Division XII championship game elevated the Lancers as a certified Division XI program.
“The way we beat Ontario Christian on its field, with its heritage, told people that we are for real.”
Grace Brethren opened the 2005 season with losses to Oak Park and Oaks Christian — the 2004 Division XI finalists — and have since won 11 consecutive games.
The quick upward divisional movement isn’t the only change that the young program has undergone.
As an eight-man team, Grace Brethren had home games on its campus. The school’s games were moved to Apollo High for the first two years of 11-man football. In 2003, home games were played at Oaks Christian School. Newbury Park, Moorpark and Westlake have been sites for Grace Brethren home games this year.
A ball-control running game has been the point of emphasis for the Grace Brethren 11-man program. Chad Kackert had three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons, finishing his career with 6,671 yards and 118 touchdowns.
There is more diversity in the 2005 running game with Matt Cull, Brad Willhite and Steve Gourley. One possible missing link from the Grace Brethren offensive equation is quarterback Travis Chupp, who was injured in last Saturday’s semifinals.
If Chupp can’t play, freshman Kevin Ramay will start at quarterback.
“Ramay has very good command of the offense,” said Terry Gourley. “He has good presence in the huddle. He makes great decisions on the option.”
While Chupp is the better runner (625 yards on 121 carries), Ramay will tuck the ball and run if the opening occurs.
“They (Oaks Christian) won’t be able to leave him alone completely,” said Gourley.
Grace Brethren’s defense allowed only one offensive touchdown in an eight-game stretch late in the season.
Grace Brethren is looking forward to the Oaks Christian rematch. Oaks Christian won 48-7 in Week 2 of the season.
“We’re a strong, tough team with some speed, nothing like Oaks Christian,” said Gourley.
“If we don’t make mistakes, we might have a chance. We’re excited about the opportunity.
“We’ll see if we can pull off that miracle.”