All season long the Central Valley Hurricanes were motivated by some unfinished business that stemmed from last season’s loss in the West Coast Football Alliance Championship Game. Although this year they faced a different opponent, last Saturday they redeemed themselves by finishing off a perfect 12-0 season with a 16-12 WCFA Championship win over the Nor Cal Seminoles.
“The championship means everything,” Hurricanes head coach Brandon Bell told Developmental Football USA. “It’s the first one ever in The Valley, in our area – just south of Sacramento all the way down to Fresno. This is the first one from The Valley.”
The Hurricanes came into Saturday’s game riding the momentum of an undefeated season, but they would soon find themselves trailing 12-0 in the first quarter.
“We came out a little too amped up,” Bell said. “We had a lot of penalties in the first half. In the first quarter alone, we probably had almost 80 yards of penalties. Then, in the second quarter, we had two long touchdowns called back because of penalties. We easily had over 100 yards of penalties in the first half.”
Trailing 12-0 at the half and refusing to let their championship hopes slip away, Central Valley dug down deep and decided to dig their way out.
“They didn’t score again after the first quarter,” Bell said. “We made some adjustments on defense and the game was ours. We had to cut the penalties and then we played a flawless last 30 minutes of football.”
In the second half, the Hurricanes scored on a touchdown pass to tight end David Cuslidge and again on the ground by running back Derrick Morrison to take the lead 14-12 with 14 minutes left in the game.
Then, in the final minute of the game, Central Valley’s defense sealed the deal with another score.
“The last play of the game was a safety,” Bell said. “We were marching the ball in. It was fourth down and we went on a quarterback bootleg and they said he fumbled, so it put the Seminoles on their own two-yard line. Then, on third down, we got a safety to end the game.”
Marquis Foster was the Hurricane responsible for adding two to the scoreboard at the end to secure the 16-12 win.
“We did it in perfect fashion,” Bell said. “We went undefeated. To go 12-0 and not lose a game, to have to battle back – in both the conference championship game and the championship game we were down two touchdowns.”
It may have been a year later than they would have liked, but Stockton, Calif., is now home to the 2017 WCFA Championship Trophy.
“This was a great opportunity for us,” Bell said. “It really put our league on the map and for us as a team, it did wonders for our confidence and our organization. We have sponsors that now want to sponsor us. It was a year removed, but we got it done.”
The WCFA season is in the books, but the Hurricanes aren’t turning in equipment for the year just yet. In fact, in two weeks they’ll be playing in what should be their toughest game all season.
“We’re playing the Pacific Coast Football League Champion (Capital City Fury) on July 15 in Sacramento,” Bell said. “Then, we’re looking to probably get an invite to a national championship game in Vegas sometime in November. The reason we don’t play a Southern Cal champion is because their season is about to start and ours just ended.”
The Fury haven’t lost a game in two years, so Central Valley will need to play mistake free football and capitalize on every opportunity.
“Anytime we step on the field we measure up pretty well,” Bell said. “This isn’t a team we can get down two touchdowns to and come back. To beat them – they haven’t lost in two years and that’s something you have to really respect – we’ll have to be on our A-game or it could get real ugly real fast.”
Bell said the Hurricanes plan to take whatever other bowl game or national opportunities may come their way, even though it might not be ideal to their yearly schedule.
“Most of the time, you have a brand new team at that point,” Bell said. “We start practicing for our new season in September, most of the time, but I’ll take it. If we’re in it, I’ll take it, and the conditions aren’t too great, but whatever needs to be done to get our name out there and show that we’re a force to be reckoned with. We’re not a pushover, you’re going to have to worry about us and we’re coming.”
Like most successful developmental teams, Central Valley’s success started at the top before it trickled down.
“This is a great team, a great organization and great ownership from the top down,” Bell said. “It’s our first championship, but it’s not going to be our last. It’s going to be the first of many.”