Maranatha tries to keep season alive

I’ve been one of the biggest critics of Maranatha football this season. I have questioned their soft schedule. But the important thing is the Minutemen have found to get a win regardless of how they got it. And with these playoffs well underway, it doesn’t matter how they win, as long as Maranatha wins.

Over the past couple of weeks, Maranatha High School’s football team has been somewhat of an enigma, never really knowing which team would show up.

The Minutemen struggled against some inferior Alpha League teams, and their high-octane offense was shut out in the regular-season finale against Brentwood. That resulted in Maranatha dropping from a second seed to no seed.

But the Minutemen still finished with a 9-1 overall record despite the see-saw performances.

And despite the ups and downs, Maranatha is in position to make a deep run in the CIF-Southern Section East Valley Division playoffs.

The Minutemen visit Big Bear for a quarterfinal-round game Saturday at 1 p.m.

“I think it’s a great matchup,” Minutemen coach Joel Murphy said. “Coach (Dave) Griffiths has done an incredible job with his program over the years and we’re excited to get a chance to play for another week.”

In last week’s first-round win over Ontario Christian, Maranatha scored only 16 points despite two players combining for nearly 400 yards of offense.

Senior quarterback Matt Schilz completed 20 of 43 passes for 264 yards and one touchdown but threw three costly interceptions, including two in the red zone.

Senior running back Daniel Kopplin had 117 yards on 17 carries.

“We don’t really have time to think about last week’s game,” Murphy said. “Did we trip up? Sure. But you learn and move on and choose to get better because of it.”

There’s been some question as to how strong Maranatha is given its relatively soft schedule and inability to win the “big games,” like against Brentwood when a victory would have put the Minutemen on the opposite bracket of top seed and three-time defending champion St. Margaret’s.

“Personally, I find it kind of funny that people are so worried about us this season,” Murphy said. “What I feel I have to point out is just how far this team, not to mention the program, has come.”

Before fall camp even started, the Maranatha football program received the tragic news that one of its players had been killed in a hiking accident at a summer camp in Southern California.

John Chavez, 16, died after he slipped and fell near the top of a waterfall.

Maranatha is dedicating its season to Chavez.

The son of Ramona Chavez, John would have been a junior starting linebacker at Maranatha.

The makeup of the Minutemen this season is young. They returned only three starters on both sides.

“We have a quarterback who had more pins and rods in his body than he did starts,” Murphy said. “None of our returnees saw any legitimate action.”

Maranatha has seven sophomores that all start.

“And yet, through it all, they’ve never quit on each other, never,” Murphy said. “What more could a coach ask for?”

miguel.melendez@sgvn.com
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