NORWALK --- Clayton Valley head coach Tim Murphy isn’t too sure how long he has left in the tank, so he knew the spotlight the Ugly Eagles were in may not be duplicated.
But whenever Murphy decides to give up the Friday Night lights, he’ll remember walking off the field after Clayton Valley won the CIF 2-AA State championship 10-7 over Aquinas (San Bernardino), its first state title in school history.
“I was really happy we had this group,” said Murphy. “We had some fun games, but when you go this long, the exhilaration that just leaves your shoulder and spines is unbelievable.”
The Ugly Eagles magical season began with a rough start. After months of discussion with the NCS board, Clayton Valley was moved from the Diablo Athletic League to the much more competitive East Bay Athletic League, where the Ugly Eagles struggled, going 1-4.
But they kept their heads up.
“We just went back to practice and fixed up some things. We just did what we had to do best,” said receiver Rayshawn Jackson.
Clayton Valley struggled to run the ball in its Wing-T offense against Aquinas, rushing for a total of 98 yards. A big 31-yard screen pass from Jake Kern to Erik Christofferson set up Omari Taylor to follow with a series of runs that ended in a one-yard touchdown run, the only one of the game.
Taylor knew that his late brother, Omar -- who passed away in a house party shooting on Halloween night -- was looking at him from the heavens with his signature smirk on his face.
“I think about him every single second of my life,” said Taylor. “But that’s what drives me. It doesn’t tear me down. He’s a part of me now. He may be gone but he’s still here. I may have lost one brother but I still have 67 more.”
Shane Nelson stepped on the field for his first and biggest field goal of the season. The sophomore had no issue nailing the 35-yard kick in the fourth quarter, which proved to be the eventual game-winner.
Aquinas threatened, putting up a nice drive that culminated in a Francisco Mauigoa 30-yard touchdown pass to Isaac Handy. But after failing to recover the onside kick, Clayton ran out the clock.
Clayton Valley’s discipline on the field played a huge part, only being penalized twice in the game.