Luke Jenkins broke out his new red, white and blue gloves with an American flag design on Friday night. The gloves match his leggings and arm sleeve.
The Stone Ridge Christian senior likes to express his patriotism because his father and grandfather both served in the military.
“I love our country,” Jenkins said. “I think it’s super awesome.”
Jenkins played the part of Captain America on Friday night as he dominated the game up front on the defensive line. Jenkins recorded one sack, a fumble recovery and spent the bulk of the game in Big Valley Christian’s backfield pressuring Lions quarterback Gunnar Selover and tackling runners behind the line of scrimmage.
Jenkins also scored a touchdown on offense with a 27-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter as Stone Ridge Christian clinched the Central California Athletic Alliance championship with a 24-14 win over previously unbeaten Big Valley Christian at Castile Field.
“That’s a heck of a football team,” said Lions coach Brian Berkefeld, whose team dropped to 9-1 overall and 4-1 in the CCAA. “Luke Jenkins is a beast. He’s an animal. He almost single-handedly stopped us.”
“Luke is one of the best defensive players in the area,” said Stone Ridge Christian coach Mark Gutierrez. “The guy plays every defensive line position. We move him around so teams can’t run away from him. He just causes chaos.”
The game started fast with both teams striking for quick touchdowns on their first possessions.
Lions star Javyn Drobnick, who came into the game with 1,496 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns, gashed the Knights (9-1, 5-0) with runs of 30 and 17 yards on the first two plays of the game. Two plays later Drobnick broke free for a 29-yard touchdown run to give the Lions a 7-0 lead with 10:06 left in the first quarter.
Drobnick finished with 118 yards on 19 carries, but suffered a scary injury late in the game.
The Lions star was taken off the field on a stretcher and left the game by ambulance after suffering a possible neck injury after taking a hit with 2:46 left in the game.
“When he left he was moving but his reactions were slow,” Berkefeld said “He was moving but it was minimal. He was unconscious when he first got hit.”
The game was stopped for more than 20 minutes as Drobnick received medical attention.
Stone Ridge Christian players gathered and said a prayer on their side of the field and Big Valley Christian players did the same. The two teams gathered at midfield after the game and prayed together.
The Knights offense also got off to a quick start as Shane Casillas scored on a 69-yard run on SRC’s second play of the game to tie the game at 7-7 with 9:47 left in the first quarter.
The defenses then took over.
After Drobnick rushed for 76 yards on his first three carries, he only rushed for 42 yards on his final 16 carries.
“This was a slobber-knocker of a game,” Berkefeld told his team after the game. “This was a hard hitting, physical football game and they got us tonight.”
Bryce Louters, who came in leading the state with 12 made field goals on the season, made a 31-yard kick to give the Knights a 10-7 lead on the final play of the first quarter.
Louters then hooked up with Jenkins on a 27-yard touchdown pass on SRC’s next drive to extend the lead to 17-7, which the Knights took into intermission.
After a scoreless third quarter, Casillas scored on a 1-yard touchdown run to give the Knights a 24-7 lead with 8:17 left in the game. Casillas finished with 127 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries.
Big Valley Christian made it interesting late as Selover found Jarred Thompson for a 6-yard touchdown to pull the Lions within 24-14 with 5:36 left.
A blocked punt set up the Lions offense at SRC’s 47-yard line with just over 3 minutes left in the game. Big Valley Christian moved the ball inside the Knights’ 10-yard line, but on the play Drobnick was injured he fumbled the ball into the hands of Stone Ridge Christian’s Cole Houweling and the Knights were able to run out the clock.
“It’s something we struggled with all season,” Gutierrez said. “We get a lead and we let off. I’ve talked to these guys in practice and told them I’m not worried about the physical part with this group. It’s all between the ears.”
Both teams are headed for the playoffs. The Sac-Joaquin Section will announce the playoff matchups on Saturday afternoon.
“We’re going to the playoffs,” Berkefeld said. “It’s a whole new season. Some teams go from being down and out to champions. We’re not done.”