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Golden Valley’s bounce-back season ends with emotional playoff loss to Cordova.

Highlights of Golden Valley’s 31-24 playoff loss to Cordova

Highlights of Golden Valley's 31-24 loss to Cordova. Cougars running back Davon Johnson rushed for 151 yards and three touchdowns.
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Highlights of Golden Valley's 31-24 loss to Cordova. Cougars running back Davon Johnson rushed for 151 yards and three touchdowns.

The emotion was pouring out of Davon Johnson. The Golden Valley senior was being consoled by a Cordova coach at midfield after the postgame handshake.

The sudden end of Johnson’s high school football career hit him hard. The No. 10 seed Lancers did just enough to edge out No. 7 Golden Valley 31-24 in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs on Friday night at Veterans Stadium.

“I was so proud of this team,” said Johnson, who carried the ball 20 times for 151 yards and three touchdowns and also made big tackles from his defensive end spot on defense. “I was just sad because it’s my senior year. It’s my last year as a Cougar.”

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Golden Valley senior Davon Johnson (45) rushed the ball during a game against Cordova in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Playoffs at Golden Valley High School in Merced, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018. Andrew Kuhn akuhn@mercedsun-star.com

Johnson wasn’t the only player in tears. It was a tough loss for a group that has helped raise a program that was 0-10 last year.

One year after not getting a win, GV finishes 6-5 and make the playoffs for the first time since 2006. Friday’s game was the first time the school hosted a playoff game on campus.

“We had a number of accomplishments this past year,” said Rick Martinez, who took over for longtime coach Dennis Stubbs. “It started with our guys showing up at the beginning of the year. We completed a lot of our goals. Guys worked hard. We won a league game and then we won consecutive league games. We made the playoffs. We accomplished many of our goals, but some will have to wait.”

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Golden Valley senior Etrell Bowers (2) leads the team onto the field during a game against Cordova in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Playoffs at Golden Valley High School in Merced, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018. Andrew Kuhn akuhn@mercedsun-star.com

Golden Valley was trying to win its first postseason game since its run to the section finals in 1999.

The Cougars (6-5) had a tough time containing Cordova quarterback Johnele Sanders. The 5-foot-8, 152-pound senior rushed for 1176 yards on 16 carries. His 45 yard run on a fourth-and-five play gave the Lancers (6-5) a 10-0 lead with 9:04 left in the first half.

Golden Valley answered with its power running game. Johnson and Avery Townsel filled in at running back for starter Jaren Phillips, who was injured last week against Merced.

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Golden Valley senior Etrell Bowers (2) is hit after catching a pass along the sideline during a game against Cordova in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Playoffs at Golden Valley High School in Merced, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018. Andrew Kuhn akuhn@mercedsun-star.com

Johnson powered his way into the end zone three times to help Golden Valley catch Cordova at 10-10 in the first half, 17-17 and later 24-24 with 1:25 left in the third quarter.

Townsel added 66 yards on the ground and 63 yards receiving on three catches.

However, it was tough on both of them filling in at running back because both are counted heavily on defense.

“I think not having our starting running back Jaren Phillips took a toll on us,” Johnson said. “Avery and I subbed in but it drastically changed our offense.”

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Golden Valley head coach Rick Martinez yells to his players during a game against Cordova in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Playoffs at Golden Valley High School in Merced, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018. Andrew Kuhn akuhn@mercedsun-star.com

A bit of indecisiveness on the Cougars sideline cost the team their final two timeouts midway through the fourth quarter. Two timeouts GV desperately could have used at the end of the game.

With the game tied at 24-24 with 7:44 left on the clock, Golden Valley faced a fourth-and-one from its own 24-yard line. The Cougars coaching staff was unsure whether to go for it or punt. They called a timeout and sent the offense out there to try to draw the Lancers offside. When it didn’t work, they burned their final timeout.

The Cougars came out in an exotic formation with all 11 players lined up in a vertical line behind the center. They then broke for the line of scrimmage, but were called for a false start before the snap and were forced to punt.

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Golden Valley junior Avery Townsel (21) rushes the ball during a game against Cordova in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Playoffs at Golden Valley High School in Merced, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018. Andrew Kuhn akuhn@mercedsun-star.com

“It’s a credit to their quarterback,” Martinez said. “He’s pretty athletic. We had trouble slowing him down so we decided to go for the first down. We wanted to keep moving the ball. We had a play to go for the first down, but we had the procedure call against us.”

The Lancers took over at their own 44 and needed just six plays to score as Raymond Fite barreled his way into the end zone on a 13-yard run to give Cordova a 31-24 lead with 4:55 left. Fite finished with 84 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

Fite also came up with a big interception on a batted ball from GV quarterback Jonathan Peredia on the Cougars’ next possession.

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Golden Valley freshman cheerleader Serena Lopez cheers on the Cougars during a game against Cordova in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Playoffs at Golden Valley High School in Merced, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018. Andrew Kuhn akuhn@mercedsun-star.com

The Cougars ended up with one more chance after Cordova missed a field goal with 21 second left. Golden Valley moved the ball to midfield with 8 seconds remaining, but Peredia was tackled around the Lancers’ 40-yard line as the clock expired.

Cordova will advance to the quarterfinals next week against No. 2 seed Vanden.

“I feel this team can come back if we’re down 100 points,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re down 100 or up 100, we’re going to try to make the plays when we need them. It just didn’t happen tonight.”

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