Brilliant season, bitter ending

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SWC scores in the second quarter to a 13-10 lead into halftime of the American Division Championship Bowl. The Jaguars could not overcome a 95 yard kick return by LA Valley College and lost 24-16. Photo by Armando Sanchez

The Jaguars fought literally to the last second of their football season. With one second left and 99 yards to go, a Hail Mary pass attempt was batted down at the 40-yard line and fluttered to the field, along with their hopes of another championship. After winning it twice since 2012, the Jags lost the American Division Championship Bowl to Los Angeles Valley College, 24-16.

Quarterback Michael Glass III praised his team’s effort after the game.

“We always had hope,” he said. “We’re never going to just give up, and just let somebody beat us. No, that’s not in us. I am proud of our guys.”

Going in, the Jaguars were decided underdogs against the undefeated LA Valley Monarchs. After giving up a 52-yard touchdown to bowl MVP Ahkil Crumpton on their second defensive play, the Jags quickly found themselves down by seven. The Monarchs added a field goal early in the second quarter to make it 10-0.

Though the Jags offense sputtered out of the gates, it gained some footing when Isaiah Strayhorn broke free for a 46-yard touchdown run. The Jags continued to claw their way into the game as defensive back J.J. Dallas pulled in an interception just before halftime.

“I feel the interception definitively gave us momentum,” he said. “We got great field position and we were able to get some points out of it.”

The Jags capitalized on the turnover, scoring another touchdown with 24 seconds on the clock, taking a 13-10 lead into halftime.

SWC was able to build on its lead early in the second half, stopping the Monarchs on their first two possessions and adding a field goal to make it 16-10.

But momentum is fickle.

After the Jaguar field goal, the game shifted when Crumpton struck again, returning the kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, making it 16-17. This was the defining moment of the game as it broke the Jags’ momentum. They were never able to regain the lead. Coach Ed Carberry said special teams was a focus going into the game.

“We talked about it at the end of last week,” he said. “That the team that wins the special teams is going to win the game and that’s what happened.”

LA Valley added another touchdown with about four minutes to go, putting the game out of reach.

For the Monarchs it was the first time in their school history to go 11-0. For the Jaguars it was a fight to the finish that left questions of what could have been. They had opportunities, but were unable to coral two key interception chances, and the offense struggled to connect on deep pass plays.

Receiver Davin Reynolds said mistakes hurt their chances.

“We came out here ready to go,” he said. “I just think we made too many mistakes in the long run.”

Glass said he was proud of how far his team made it this year.

“We play as a family and when you play as a family you’re going to stick it out to the end,” he said. “We came this far. Last year we were 4-6, then to go 9-2, that’s a big come up.”

Dallas agreed.

“We accomplished a lot this season,” he said. “We left some plays on the field and came up a little bit short. I’m still proud of my boys. Proud to be a Jag.”

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