PALMDALE — It wasn’t July, but there were plenty of fireworks when Cajon and Paraclete faced each other in the quarterfinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division III football playoffs on Friday night.
Mainly from the visitors from San Bernardino.
The blueprint was simple for defeating the top-seeded Cowboys entering Friday night’s game.
Stop all-everything Jayden Daniels, regarded by many as the No. 2 dual threat quarterback in the nation.
Easier said than done.
Daniels accounted for 547 yards of total offense and nine touchdowns to lead the Cowboys to a 76-40 victory in an old-fashioned shootout over a game Paraclete team, at Palmdale High School.
“I thought we were right there in the beginning. We had the ball and we were only down 12, but then we turned it over. I thought we were right where we wanted to be,” Spirits’ head coach Dean Herrington said. “We blew way too many coverages in the first half.”
Of course, seven turnovers against the top team in the division didn’t help any.
“You won’t beat a junior high team with that many turnovers.” Herrington said.
Paraclete (5-7) took Cajon’s best punch in the mouth in the first half and trailed 14-0 eight minutes into the first quarter. However, they gained momentum when quarterback Marshall Saul connected with Dawit Wasse from 33 yards out to cut the lead in half.
After recovering the ball on the 45-yard line, the Spirits were at it again and Saul found Justin Haywood on a 45-yard touchdown reception to tie the score 14-14.
Cajon (11-1) began to create separation after two quick touchdown passes from Daniels to his favorite target Utah-bound Darren Jones. Over a span of two minutes the Daniels-Jones connection from 61 and 28 yards gave the Cowboys a 26-14 lead.
The 6-foot-8 Jones had seven receptions for 171 yards. But the night belonged to Daniels, who has more than 25 Division 1 schools salivating over his services next season. He finished 16-of-27 for 389 yards and six touchdown passes. He also rushed for 158 yards on 11 carries and three touchdowns.
His six touchdown passes already added to his Southern Section record of 165 for a career. He also set the career passing yardage record.
“He’s a very special player,” Herrington said.
Following one of Saul’s four interceptions, Cajon took over on its own 21-yard line. Daniels helped his team extend a 12-point lead after he called his own number and sprinted up the sideline 79 yards for the touchdown and a 34-14 lead.
It wasn’t as though the Spirits couldn’t score with the Cowboys, it was their turnovers that led to their demise. Cajon had too much fire power in the end to pull away.
“I thought we had a really good chance tonight. I thought we were playing our best football at the end of the season,” Herrington said. “Just too many mistakes.”
Saul did throw four touchdowns, however, he also had four interceptions. He finished with 272 yards passing against a weak secondary.
Haywood had two touchdown receptions and Xavier Ochoa-Rico finished with 72 yards rushing and scored touchdowns of six and three yards.