Noah Celie had no time to think about the task at hand during the third quarter against Oak Hills last month.
Apple Valley quarterback Jayden Denegal, a University of Michigan commit, left the game due to injury. Celie, a sophomore, had played quarterback as a freshman on the junior varsity squad.
Celie hadn’t practiced at quarterback all season long because he was too valuable to the team as a receiver and fullback, according to head coach Kyle Godfrey.
“I knew I had to just go out there and do my thing,” Celie said.
Apple Valley lost the game 21-14, but Celie has since quarterbacked the offense to three-straight victories and into the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 semifinals against Roosevelt.
CIF-SS Div. 3 semifinals
Apple Valley (9-3) at Roosevelt (8-4)
CalPreps.com ratings: Apple Valley 48, Roosevelt 47.2
CalPreps.com projection: Roosevelt 24-22
“I’m very excited to lead this offense and team, and I know the whole team and coaches have my back so I just gotta go out there and perform,” Celie said.
The odds have been stacked against Apple Valley. The Sun Devils are the No.16 seed in the division and upset top-seeded Citrus Valley in the first round.
Apple Valley topped Glendora last week to reach the semifinals.
Godfrey wasn’t able to attend the game due to COVID-19 protocols. He watched a stream of the game from his backyard.
After the victory, someone from the team called Godfrey via FaceTime to celebrate.
Godfrey has returned to practice and said he was amazed by the victory.
But he isn’t surprised.
“You hear people in football talk about being a family, but that’s really the case with us,” Godfrey said. “This is the closest to a family environment I’ve ever been a part of in my time coaching. These kids really play for each other because of everything we have been through, from the death of Lawrence Andrews to the injuries, to the COVID contact tracing. This is a special group of young men.”
This corps of seniors are used to winning. As freshmen, the team went 10-0 and averaged 48 points per game, with Godfrey as the frosh team’s head coach.
The majority of those players played on the 9-1 team in 2019, and the 5-0 team in the abbreviated season this past spring.
Apple Valley capped the shortened season with a thrilling victory over Culver City. Both teams ended the season among the highest-ranked in the state.
The program decided to continue scheduling tough opponents. Apple Valley jumped right into the smoke in the season opener against Mission Viejo, a Div. 1 program. Apple Valley held its own and led for much of the game before losing 44-21.
The Sun Devils lost to Rancho Cucamonga the following week and then pulled off a 27-14 victory over Murrieta Valley, a Div. 2 team.
“That Culver City game really showed them they could compete with anyone in the state,” Godfrey said. “That aura around the prestige of a name like Mission Viejo or Rancho Cucamonga isn’t there. There is no fear in them. That fear of going down the hill and competing with any of the top programs isn’t gone. We know we can compete with anyone.”
Apple Valley has its hands full this week. Roosevelt topped Rancho Cucamonga 17-7 to reach the semifinals. But earlier in the season, Roosevelt lost 46-12 to Murrieta Valley.
Roosevelt likes to throw the ball. The offense averages 179 pass yards a game and 114 on the ground.
The Mustangs have outscored opponents 308-269.
The Sun Devils are ready for the challenge, Celie said.
“We’ve had a good week of preparation so we are ready and feeling confident,” Celie said.
Daily Press reporter Jose Quintero may be reached at 760-951-6274 or JQuintero@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DP_JoseQ.
This article originally appeared on Victorville Daily Press: Prep Football: Resilient Apple Valley claws way into Div. 3 semifinals against Roosevelt