Column: How Simi Valley gained Division 6 title in wild vogue

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By Calvin S. Nelson

There was drama, there was pleasure, there was comedy. Jim Benkert, the primary soccer coach in Simi Valley Excessive’s 103-year historical past to win a CIF title, obtained house at 1 a.m. Sunday after his staff’s 44-38 extra time victory over host Mira Costa within the Southern Part Division 6 closing and wanted a right away bathe.

“They hit me with Gatorade for the primary time in my profession,” he mentioned. “I used to be uncomfortable for 2 hours on the bus. That stuff is sticky, smelly and disgusting.”

Simi Valley’s story is wild. The staff has scored seven touchdowns off blocked kicks this season, six of them punts, together with Saturday night time. Carlos Ferreiro blocked a punt simply earlier than halftime and Seth Knight returned it for a landing to make the rating Mira Costa 28, Simi Valley 17.

“We had been lifeless,” Benkert mentioned of his staff falling behind 21-0. “We had been hopelessly lifeless. We blocked the kick and life occurred.”

The sport went into extra time. Mira Costa was stopped on its first possession. Simi Valley gamers went onto the sector with an opportunity to win the sport. That’s when the stadium lights went darkish.

“The youngsters are going, ‘Oh, they did it on goal,’” Benkert mentioned. “No. It’s chilly, there’s a convention with the officers, no lights are on. It was a surreal surroundings. Simply to be sincere, I needed to go to the toilet. I advised the referee, ‘Don’t begin the sport till I come again.’”

After a 20-minute delay, Simi Valley gamers had been telling Benkert what play to run and the way they intend to have a good time.

“Our children got here up, ‘Coach, after we win it, I’m going to hold you off the sector.’ I’m going, ‘Can we focus?’ They had been so positive we’d win.”

On the second play of extra time, Brice Hawkins ran 20 yards for the game-winning landing.

“Oh my gosh, it was so gratifying,” mentioned Benkert, who has 302 profession victories and beforehand gained CIF titles at Westlake and Oaks Christian. “I’m so pleased with these children.”

Seven of the starters performed junior varsity soccer as juniors. The staff’s beginning quarterback was ready to change positions till studying the anticipated starter had transferred. The defensive coordinator, Doug Semones, lives in Puerto Rico. The particular groups coordinator, Darrell Talavera, lives in Maui. One other particular groups coach, Kevin Sterling, lives in Utah. One way or the other, someway, Benkert has made it work.

In season the place there was only a few surprises on the higher ranges of highschool soccer in Southern California, Simi Valley (9-5) heads a bunch of groups celebrating inconceivable championships, together with Mayfair (Division 7), Torrance (Division 10), St. Monica (Division 13), Bell Gardens (Division 14) and Los Angeles Jordan (Metropolis Part Division III).

All will get to play in state bowl video games that had been introduced on Sunday. The marquee matchup is the CIF Open Division bowl recreation set for Dec. 9 at Saddleback School that includes Mater Dei in opposition to San Mateo Serra. Metropolis Part Open Division champion Birmingham opens play in a Division 3-AA regional on the highway Friday in San Diego in opposition to Del Norte, coached by former Inexperienced Bay Packers linebacker Nick Barnett.

Regional video games can be performed this week, with winners advancing to the finals to be performed at Saddleback, El Camino School and Pasadena Metropolis School on Dec. 8-9.

Simi Valley will face Central Valley Christian (13-1) in Visalia on Saturday night time. When Benkert coached at Westlake and Oaks Christian, his groups had been routed in state bowl video games, so he’s altering techniques this week. There can be no shoulder pads worn throughout practices. They are going to be walk-throughs as gamers attempt to heal bruises and banged-up our bodies.

“Let’s get pleasure from what we achieved and have enjoyable” is Benkert’s message.

Together with, “Let’s block one other kick.”

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