Football

State champs! Pinole Valley beats Mendota to capture 7-AA title

MENDOTA –– There wasn’t much breathing room for the Pinole Valley Spartans in their CIF 7-AA state championship game on the road against Mendota on a chilly Saturday night.

But with 40 seconds left, a 36-yard touchdown run by senior running back Larry McDonald extended Pinole Valley’s lead to 34-21. The Spartans finally could relax and let the celebration start a little early.

The score held up as time expired, and the Spartans (9-4) raced to celebrate with coach Troy McConico, who had just led his alma mater to their first state championship in program history.

“I’m kind of speechless,” said McConico, a 2005 graduate of the school. “This is a proud moment, it’s something that we’ve worked for all season. We expected this with this senior class. I’ve seen them come in as freshmen and it’s the perfect time to let them go out at this level.”

“He’s a great coach and has great leadership,” Pinole Valley quarterback Maddux Wu said. “He put us in the right place and has done the right things for us.”

Final:

Pinole Valley 34 – Mendota 21

The Spartans are CIF 7-AA State Champions! pic.twitter.com/3yImMml0bV

— Jesús Cano (@Jesus_Cano88) December 4, 2022

Wu also put his team in a position to win.

He completed eight of 11 pass attempts for 186 yards and threw two touchdowns. This was a drastic improvement from last week’s performance in the Division VI North Coast Section championship where he only completed one of his nine passes, although that one pass ended up being the game-winning play.

“We weren’t going to ask him to throw the ball a lot, but when we needed him to throw he was able to make those important passes,” McConico said.

In the first drive of the game, he connected with Ellis Shasmid-Deen for a 38-yard touchdown pass to put the Spartans up 7-0.

It was the beginning of a back-and-forth first quarter.

Mendota (9-6) responded back in its first possession as Chris Mejia tied the game on a 16-yard run.

James Gordon III gave Pinole Valley a 14-7 lead on a 1-yard run, but the Aztecs had an answer when they got the ball back. Mejia ran in for a 33-yard touchdown to make it 14-14.

With 20 seconds left in the first half, Wu threw his second touchdown to Shamsid-Deen. The 25-yard touchdown pass gave Pinole Valley a 20-14 lead and momentum heading into halftime.

“I just had to complete more of my passes (compared to last week),” Wu said. “Ellis is that guy. I just gotta give him the ball and he does all the magic.”

That’s what happened in the fourth quarter. With 8:18 left, Wu handed the ball off to Shamsid-Deen, who ran through a pile of Mendota linemen and into the endzone for a 72-yard touchdown run to put Pinole Valley up 27-14. Shamsid-Deen ended the night with 189 offensive yards and three touchdowns.

Q2: With 20 seconds left, Maddux Wu connects with Ellis Shamsid-Deen for a 25-yard touchdown pass. PAT is blocked.

Pinole Valley 20 – Mendota 14 pic.twitter.com/esRlpQRT87

— Jesús Cano (@Jesus_Cano88) December 4, 2022

“We knew that our team had tons of potential,” Shamsid-Deen said. “If we locked in, stayed disciplined and did the little things no one can stop us.”

Mendota was still fighting as a 3-yard keeper from quarterback Juan Ceja cut the Aztecs’ deficit to 27-21, but ultimately they weren’t able to catch up to Pinole Valley.

Just two years into his tenure as head coach, McConico was able to lead his team to its first section championship since 1979 and walk off the field as a state champion.

“It’s Spartan pride. That’s all it comes down to,” McConico said.

Q4: That should be it. Larry McDonald’s 36-yard touchdown run puts Pinole Valley up 34-21.

39 seconds left

If this holds, the Spartans are going to be CIF 7-AA state champions. pic.twitter.com/WFP5OcTWtA

— Jesús Cano (@Jesus_Cano88) December 4, 2022

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