SCV Fall Sports Recap
CIF Championships and More Mark 2005
February, 2006 - Issue #16
Depending on which Santa Clarita Valley teams you root for, the fall of 2005 was either the best of times or the worst of times. Or perhaps it offered a taste of both.

Streaks were snapped and extended.

State records were shattered and section records fell by the wayside.

CIF titles were won and lost.

There were jaw-dropping upsets and title runs no one could have predicted.

There were two state championships - one lost, the other gained.

Even for the casual local sports fan, the fall of 2005 ranks as one of this valley's most exciting. Certainly, it was one of the most historic.

The most prodigious accomplishments during the fall of 2005 are listed below in no particular order.

Canyon Football Reclaims the Top Spot

Coach Harry Welch of Canyon High is congratulated for his fourth section title. The Cowboys finished the season as the top ranked team in California. Photo by Eddie Sadiwa courtesy of The Signal.
Coach Harry Welch of Canyon High is congratulated for his fourth section title. The Cowboys finished the season as the top ranked team in California. Photo by Eddie Sadiwa courtesy of The Signal.
If anyone who isn't a Cowboy booster tells you they predicted what the Canyon varsity football team accomplished in 2005, check your back pocket for your wallet because someone's lying.

Yes, Cowboy coach Harry Welch inherited a junior varsity team that went undefeated in 2004, but as Welch said several times heading into the season, J.V. is J.V. and varsity is, well, varsity.

Canyon started a junior - J.J. DiLuigi - at running back and began the season without a clear starter at quarterback.

Most experts expected Canyon to be looking up again at Hart and Valencia, but someone forgot to tell the boys in green and gold.

The Cowboys, led by DiLuigi, quarterback Austin Civita and a stingy defense, went 13-1, including an unbeaten league season for their first-ever Foothill League title.

On December 9, they capped it off with a 21-13 win over Hart in the CIF-Southern Section Division II title game.

The win earned Canyon its fourth section title under Welch, its first since 1985.

"You can't compare titles," Welch said. "I'm proud of my fourth child and this is like that."

Canyon won 11 straight games during the run. Its lone loss came at the hands of Simi Valley.

The Cowboys finished the season as the number-one-ranked team in California, according to, which also ranked them 14th in the country.

"One of the hit movies [in 2005] was 'Cinderella Man,'" Welch said of his team's storybook season. "If you told me in July that we would win the championship I would have had to pinch myself. It was a team effort. The work the kids did along the way is what made the difference on Friday nights."

J.J. DiLuigi Eclipses Touchdown Mark

J.J DiLuigi entered his first varsity season with a reputation. As a sophomore on the J.V. team, the tailback had gained more than 2,000 yards to help the Cowboys to an unbeaten record.

People expected him to be good, but few predicted him to be as good as he was.

"That was J.V.," said Welch of DiLuigi's sophomore campaign. "When you get up to varsity, you're going against the best there is in Southern California."

As it turns out, DiLuigi was also one of the best - his 1,870 yards rushing prove that.

And when it came to finding the endzone, DiLuigi was the best in Southern California ... ever.

The junior collected a Southern Section record 43 touchdowns in 2005, breaking the mark of 41 set by Hart's Ted Iacenda in 1994.

DiLuigi scored four touchdowns in each of his first two games and burned Saugus for six. In Canyon's 14 games, he was held under 100 yards just once.

And in the CIF title game against Hart, it was DiLuigi who tackled Hart's Troy Yudin on the 1-yard line on fourth down with seconds remaining to preserve to schools' biggest win in 20 years.

"J.J. isn't the tallest or the fastest," Welch said. "He's just the best."

Shannon Murakami Takes State

Shannon Murakami of Saugus High School captured an individual CIF Division I state championship. Photo by Eddie Sadiwa courtesy of The Signal.
Shannon Murakami of Saugus High School captured an individual CIF Division I state championship. Photo by Eddie Sadiwa courtesy of The Signal.
Last spring, Saugus runner Shannon Murakami ran to a fourth place finish in the 3,200 meters at the state track and field finals in Sacramento.

She was disappointed she didn't win, but her coach, Rene Paragas, knew even better times lay ahead.

"She hasn't peaked yet," he said after that race, "We're timing her training so she peaks in the fall during cross country season."

Flash-forward to Thanksgiving weekend in Fresno and you'll find Murakami making good on Paragas' prediction. The junior, racing against the top runners in the state, bested a field of 158 at Woodward Park to capture the CIF Division I state championship.

Her time of 17:43 was a full seven seconds faster than her nearest competitor.

Spectators claim she ran a perfect race, falling in behind the leaders for the first two miles before making her move.

Her individual state title - the first for an SCV runner since Lauren Fleshman accomplished the feat for Canyon in 1998, helped the Centurions to a sixth-place team finish.

Herrick Sets All-Time Passing Mark

Valencia quarterback Michael Herrick became California's most prolific high school passer during the fall of 2005, running his career total to a staggering 10,983 yards. No other passer in California has even reached 10,000.

Newbury Park's Keith set the record at 9,971 in 1993.

Breaking the record, considered by most a forgone conclusion at the start the season, was anything but routine to Herrick.

"He was pretty good at hiding it as being a burden," says Michael's father, Greg Herrick, who coaches women's basketball at College of the Canyons. "After he broke the record he kind of went off. I think the pressure was off and he threw the ball as well as he ever has."

What's most astonishing about Herrick's numbers is that he amassed them in just three seasons. He's number 12 all time nationally and the only passer in the top 15 not to play at the varsity level for four seasons.

The senior, who has accepted an offer to play for the University of Mississippi next season, also set state career records in completions with 801 and attempts with 1,278.

Hart Upsets Mission Viejo

December 2 was supposed to be Hart's last game. Against national powerhouse and defending section champion Mission Viejo, the Indians were supposed to hit the proverbial brick wall.

So much for supposed to.

The Indians, depleted and perhaps galvanized by a hazing scandal that cost them three varsity players for the duration of the playoffs, pulled off one of the season's most shocking upsets.

Quarterback Tyler Lyon went 17-of-21 for 257 yards and three touchdowns to lead Hart to a 24-12 win over the Diablos, ranked number two in the nation by USA Today. It also avenged 2004's playoff loss to Mission Viejo and propelled Hart into the CIF finals against Canyon.

The Indians fell in the finals, but the semifinal victory over their archrival was almost as sweet.

The win snapped the Diablos' 26-game winning streak - their last loss had come at the hands of Hart in the 2003 section finals.

It was a reminder that Hart football is still Hart football and bolstered the argument that the state's best high school football is played right here in the SCV.

Other Notable Moments

The Valencia girls tennis team goes 21-3 to advance to the CIF-SS Division III finals. The Vikings fall to a much-favored Brentwood team, but gives the Eagles all they can handle in a 10-8 loss.

Alfred Coronado leads the Hart boys cross-country team to its first Foothill League title in 10 years, snapping Canyon's 10-year title streak in the process.

COC football sees its 26-game winning streak snapped in the Southern California Regional Finals. The defending national champions were seeking their second state crown.
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