CHICO — Saxon Franks took a pitch to the right side of the field on the first play of the third quarter and the senior running back fought off tackles and tip-toed to a 74-yard touchdown to take the Panthers lead to 21 points.
This was the final dagger the Panthers needed Friday night that led them to a 41-21 victory in the North Section Division II playoffs at the Chico High football field.
“We were excited to play Enterprise again,” said head coach Jason Alvistur. “We had a great week of practice and man; I got a super coaching staff to get these kids ready.”
Alvistur had high praise for his defense, which allowed just seven points through three quarters.
“Coach Click does a great job with the defense,” Alvistur said. “We got kids who play really hard and put a lot of effort in. The game plan was just to be physical and stop the run.”
Chico High came into the game as the No. 2 seed in the playoffs while Enterprise was the No. 3 seed. The last time these two teams played, Enterprise took down Chico 25-19 on Oct. 29 in Redding.
The Panthers received a bye in the first round of the playoffs after finishing the season 7-3. The Hornets (8-3) had no problem winning their first matchup. They blew out Las Plumas 60-0, leading them to a rematch against Chico.
The Panthers could not have scripted a better first half.
They forced the Hornets to throw an interception on their first third down play and the Panthers used the good position to score the first touchdown of the game.
Anthony Hernandez, the 5-foot-8 junior receiver got the party started by taking a fly sweep from midfield and flew into the endzone to score the first points.
But the Hornets responded quickly to tie the game on their second drive. DeMarreya Lewis-Cooper, the senior quarterback for the Hornets, found Jahari Johnson running a streak route and found the receiver for a 28-yard touchdown.
The Panthers used a combination of running through their tackles and explosive passing plays to score 21 first-half points and Chico was able to score on three of four first half possessions.
The Panthers forced their second turnover mid-way through the second quarter and made them pay. Gage James, the 5-foot-9 senior quarterback dialed up a flea flicker and found Troy Sommer streaking down the field and hit him in stride to take the lead back.
“We felt great offensively tonight,” Sommer said. “I just want to give thanks to all of our lineman. They did it for us, they held it down.”
After forcing their third punt of the first half, the Panthers used good field position again to strike. Sommer took a tunnel screen from midfield, and no one could catch the speedy receiver. The Panthers took the lead into the half 21-7.
Sommer finished the game with two touchdowns, both coming on plays of 45-plus yards.
James said his team could not wait for this game.
“We were fired up,” James said. “We lost to them last time and we did not play well. We just wanted to fix up our mistakes and come out here and take the dub.”
James, the 5-foot-9 quarterback embraced the leadership role this year and is leading his squad to the championship game.
“I loved stepping into this leadership role. They are my family and it’s great to be around them.”
Foothill took down Pleasant Valley 23-15 Friday night. It will be Chico vs Foothill for the championship game. The Division II Championship game will be played at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 27.