California beats Chartiers-Houston, clinches 2nd place in Tri-County South

Saturday, October 19, 2019 | 12:59 AM

The 2019 season has been a roller coaster for California with plenty of ups and downs.

The Trojans, who had to deal with a new coaching staff and their share of injuries, clinched second place in the Tri-County South on Friday with a 40-12 victory over Chartiers-Houston.

“We played with a lot of emotion tonight,” said running back Lucas Qualk, who had 104 rushing yards. “It was crazy because we (seniors) were thinking this is our last game on this field. It was a special night for us, and we just came together as a team.”

Cal, which ends the regular season at Mapletown next Friday, has made the playoffs for a fourth straight season and the 12th time in the last 17 years.

“I’m really proud of the effort by our kids,” California coach Ed Woods said. “Special teams were key, and we finally made some plays. Things finally clicked on our returns. I thought we ran the ball effectively, and our line was able to open up a lot of holes. We blocked well all night.”

California’s offense didn’t take the field until the 1 minute, 8 seconds mark of the first quarter. The Trojans already had a lead because of a 76-yard opening kickoff return by Cochise Ryan and a 78-yard punt return by Jaedan Zuzak.

Trailing 14-0, the Bucs (6-3, 5-2) capped a 17-play drive with a 7-yard scoring pass to Jimmy Sadler from Anthony Lento on a fourth-and-goal play.

The Trojans (6-3, 5-1) quickly responded as Qualk ended an eight-play, 65-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown.

“Those two special teams touchdowns got us going early on,” Qualk said. “We had that early momentum and to respond with a score on that first drive just continued our momentum. I give a lot of credit to the line tonight.”

Cal carried a 21-6 lead into halftime.

Sandwiched around a passing touchdown from Lento in the third quarter, the Trojans got two rushing touchdowns from Colton Lusk (28 yards) and Qualk (55).

Cal secured the win in the final quarter when Zuzak rumbled in for an 18-yard score.

“The kids are starting to click at the right time running the ball,” Woods said. “We like to mix up our backs and formations. We didn’t have to throw the ball a lot, and our running game was really good. The line had a great week of practice, and they made all of their assignments. They trusted the system.”

Lusk tallied a team-high 127 yards on the ground for Cal, and Damani Stafford ran for 93 yards. Zuzak added 59.

Ryan, who leads the Trojans with 25 touchdowns this season, did not play in the second half because of a lower-body injury he suffered on an interception return in the second quarter.

Lento finished his night for C-H with 269 yards passing with two scores and three interceptions.

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