NAPA — For the first time since 1979, Pinole Valley is a section champion.
The Spartans beat Justin-Siena 7-0 on Friday night at Memorial Stadium in Napa to win the North Coast Section Division VI championship.
“I can’t even describe this feeling,” said Pinole Valley coach Troy McConico, a 2005 graduate of the school. “This win is for so many guys who didn’t have the chance to play for an NCS championship. It’s a proud moment.”
Justin-Siena (7-6) had not allowed a single point during its playoff run — until the third quarter Friday.
That proved costly for the Napa school.
With 3:11 left in the period, Pinole Valley quarterback Maddux Wu sailed a 39-yard touchdown pass to Ellis Shamsid-Deen for the decisive play. Wu did not complete any of his seven pass attempts in the first half but was determined to make a change in the second half.
“New quarter, new me. I just had to do better,” Wu said. “They couldn’t guard Ellis. I gave him a nice lead and we got the touchdown.”
Wu isn’t a quarterback by trait, but Pinole Valley (8-4) operates on a run-heavy single-wing offense. McConico knew from the beginning that Wu was the guy to control the offense.
“Maddux is a great player, but in our offense, we don’t play with a traditional quarterback,” McConico said. “We just got a guy that can manage everything and throw the ball when we need to. He stepped up to the plate.”
That was Wu’s only completion of the game, but his struggles throwing the ball may have benefited Pinole Valley, as Justin-Siena coach Tyler Streblow said his team wasn’t expecting a pass on the key play.
“I think we were kind of lulled to sleep a little bit,” Streblow said. “I think we were expecting a run and they got us on one. That was a great play call, great execution, great throw.”
“We made one mistake. They did a great job and made us pay for it.”
The touchdown provided a jolt to the Spartans’ defense, which locked down Justin-Siena and forced the Braves to turn the ball over on downs with 3:47 left in the game.
Pinole Valley found itself in trouble when it fumbled moments later. Justin-Siena recovered and returned the ball to Pinole Valley’s 25-yard line.
Once again, Shamsid-Deen was there to make a game-saving play.
With the outcome in doubt, Justin-Siena went for it all on fourth down by throwing a deep pass, but Shamsid-Deen made an interception and returned the ball to around midfield. Pinole Valley ran out the clock and the celebrating began.
“We got the pick and secured the win,” Shamsid-Deen said.
Pinole Valley could have gone into halftime with some momentum.
With less than a minute left before the break, Larry McDonald, who led the team with 228 rushing yards, escaped for a 75-yard run and was tackled at Justin-Siena’s five-yard line.
Pinole Valley called its last timeout when some of its players started cramping. Ultimately, the Spartans were held at the 1-yard line as time expired.
Luckily for the Spartans, that sequence didn’t come back to haunt them
“It worked out for the best,” McConico said with a laugh. “But we should have been on the ball way faster.”
Pinole Valley will now move on to a CIF Northern California regional championship game next week. The matchups will be announced Sunday.
“It’s a great time to be a Spartan,” McConico said.