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Patriots advance to section finals for first time since 2007

EL CAJON – After having its season end in the Division V semifinals each of the past three years, Christian made sure that streak stopped on Friday night. The second-seeded Patriots started fast and held off third-seeded Francis Parker in a 63-42 shootout at Granite Hills High to advance to the finals for the first time in four seasons.

“In August we had a team meeting and I told the team we’re not ending the season in the semis this year – we’re going all the way,” said Christian running back Rayvon Owens. “We made a pact and stuck to that pact.”

After Christian (9-3) scored on the game’s opening drive, Patriots defensive back Phillip George intercepted a Gabe Harrington pass and returned it to the Francis Parker 22-yard line. Christian turned the short field into points, taking a 14-0 lead on a Shane Dillon 10-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Harris.

Francis Parker (6-5-1) scored a pair touchdowns in the second quarter, but Christian answered both those scores to maintain a 14-point lead at halftime. The Patriots answered the Lancers’ first score of the quarter on the ensuing kickoff with a 99-yard touchdown return by George, who faked a handoff and raced down the sidelines untouched.

“We were chasing them all night,” said Francis Parker head coach John Morrison. “At some point you have to stop the other team and we just weren’t able to do that.”

On the opening drive of the second half, Francis Parker made it 28-21 with a 72-yard scoring drive capped by a Harrington 9-yard touchdown pass to receiver Hank Childs. With the game still close, Christian closed out the quarter with consecutive touchdowns to take a 21-point lead into the fourth quarter.

“We felt like going in that our only chance to stay with them was to get them to give us the ball a few times, and they didn’t do it,” Morrison said.

Though the game didn’t get any closer in the final quarter, both teams provided the offensive fireworks by trading touchdowns back and forth in quick succession. Six scores later, Christian was able to run out the clock to wrap up the highest-scoring game through three rounds of the postseason.

“In a game like this against a great team like Parker, we couldn’t let up,” Owens said. “We had to push through every play and just work every play.”

Owens ran for a season-high 168 yards and five touchdowns, rushing for 128 yards in the first half. The junior back provided the Patriots’ offense with a balance, as Dillon threw touchdown passes to Harris and senior receiver Jason Gaines.

“It definitely opens up the passing game,” Owens said. “Shane Dillon is a great passer and me running the ball effectively opens up the game for him and our receivers.”

Christian advances to the Division V finals next Friday at Mesa College to face top-seeded Santa Fe Christian (11-1). The Patriots lost to the Eagles 48-34 in Solana Beach on Oct. 29 during Coastal League play.

“We have to bring it harder than we did last time we played them, and we can’t make mistakes like we did,” Owens said.

For Francis Parker, Harrington connected with Childs for three touchdown passes and sophomore Jesse Brookins ran for two scores in the loss. The Lancers had been to the finals in each of the past three seasons.

“Our seniors had always played in the championship game, and they were trying to go 4-for-4,” Morrison said. “It’s always disappointing when the season ends, but we have a lot to be proud of and a lot to look forward to.”

Pictured: Francis Parker quarterback Gabe Harrington looks for a receiver with a pair of Christian defenders collapsing the pocket

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