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    Simi Valley football stops Crean Lutheran to reach Division 6 semifinals
    • November 11, 2023

    SIMI VALLEY – Simi Valley football defeated Crean Lutheran 27-7 Friday night to advance to the CIF Southern Section Division 6 semifinals. The win for Simi Valley marks the 300th win for Simi Valley head coach Jim Benkert. With the win, Benkert becomes the 14th head coach in California state history reach the milestone, according to

    “I’m just so proud of the way the kids played,” Benkert said. “I think we really came out from the beginning and took the game to them and our defense played lights out all night.”

    The Simi Valley defense was tough all night, holding Crean Lutheran to under 150 total yards and not allowing any offensive touchdowns. Simi Valley’s defense was also forced two fumbles and grabbed an interception in the game. The only Saints score of the night came on a punt return for a touchdown by Ben Byzewski at the end of the first half.

    Safety Jayden Graham was all over the field for Simi Valley, forcing and recovering a fumble in the first half and also grabbing an interception in the second half.

    “It feels great to step up, and not let them score on offense,” Graham said. “Our defense tends to build off each other and we love to make big hits.”

    The Simi Valley defense focused on stopping the run with Crean Lutheran running back Justin Dominguez having 977 rushing yards and averaging 6.8 yards a carry heading into this game. The Pioneer defense did a nice job containing Dominguez, holding him to 25 rushing yards on nine carries.

    Simi Valley jumped out to a 20-7 lead through two quarters with the defense and special teams being directly involved in each score. Both Pioneer offensive scores in the first half were set up in good field position by the Graham fumble recovery and then a fumble recovery from Seth Knight in the second quarter.

    Simi Valley’s first score of the night came on the drive following the Graham fumble recovery when Jesse Sereno found Drayden Rittersdorf on a 10-yard touchdown pass. Simi Valley took a 14-point lead after Carlos Ferreiro blocked a Saints punt and Jayden Clarke picked it up and returned it 18 yards for the scoop and score.

    Jack Reed hit a 23-yard field goal after Knight’s fumble recovery set Simi Valley up at the Saint 11-yard line to give Simi Valley a 17-7 lead heading into halftime.

    Simi Valley’s defensive dominance continued in the second half with Graham starting the second half with an interception on Crean Lutheran’s first possession that set up Simi Valley near midfield. Jack Reed took advantage and hit a 40-yard field goal to extend the Simi Valley lead to 20-7.

    The final Simi Valley score came on a blocked field goal by Ferreiro that he returned for a touchdown to make the score 27-7 in the third quarter.

    “I’m just proud of our team, and it was a team game with everyone doing what they needed to do.” Ferreiro said.

    Crean Lutheran struggled to get anything going in the passing game. In the third quarter, Crean Lutheran freshman quarterback Caden Jones was replaced by Jeremiah Finaly, but neither quarterback could get much of anything going with Simi Valley recording six sacks and bringing constant pressure.

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    “Hats off to Simi Valley. Coach Benkert and his staff did a great job,” Crean Lutheran coach Rich Curtis said. “Their defense was quicker than we thought and they did a great job of stopping the run game.”

    Sereno finished the game 16 of 22 for 161 yards and one touchdown pass. Simi Valley’s Brice Hawkins ran the ball 23 times for 78 yards.

    Simi Valley will be at home next week to take on Huntington Beach in the semifinals.

    ​ Orange County Register