Homecoming activities continued on even after the final seconds had ticked off Friday night, with several Grace Brethren High football players being honored as their class kings on the field at Moorpark College.
Altogether appropriate and wholly symbolic, since this was night the Lancers made themselves at home — yes, announced themselves as a recognized force — in the upper-crust Camino League.
"This was huge," said Grace Brethren junior middle linebacker Josh Henderson after his team's decisive 39-7 victory over visiting Moorpark High at Griffin Stadium. "I think this is probably the biggest regular-season game this program has ever played. It's that important. It shows that we belong."
Lontrelle Diggs rushed for 196 yards and three touchdowns on a workhorse 28 carries, the Grace Brethren offense piled up 312 rushing yards and the Lancers defense pitched a shutout after Moorpark's first possession.
It all added up to a statement made on homecoming night. After long years in the Tri-Valley League, Grace Brethen has arrived as a bona fide force in its first season in the uber-competitive Camino League.
Grace Brethren improves to 6-2 overall and 2-0 in league, and just might play for the Camino championship when its hosts Camarillo on Oct. 26. Moorpark falls to 5-2 overall and 1-1 in league.
The Lancers said they played with a simple mandate in their first-ever meeting with the Musketeers.
"Just be physical," said Henderson, who also rushed for 54 yards and an 11-yard touchdown on eight carries. "That's what we do best. When we play physical, we know we can win any game."
Diggs, the 5-foot-8, 225-pound veritable sledgehammer, concurred.
"We heard that (Moorpark) wanted to be physical against us, so that made us respond," he said. "We worked so hard to get ready, and it showed tonight. We run the ball hard. We've got a great offensive line. We just kept pushing and pushing."
Diggs scored on runs of 1 , 4 and 4 yards as Grace Brethren built leads of 19-7 at halftime and 32-7 after three quarters.
For good measure, Diggs deliver what might have been the game's key defensive play when he sacked Moorpark quarterback Blake Sturgill in the end zone for a safety to extend Grace Brethren's advantage to 19-7 with 1:11 left in the first half.
"First time I've done that," he said with a smile. "It felt good to make a play on defense."
Grace Brethren's prowess on the ground made for long and time-consuming possessions on offense.The Lancers opened the game with an 11-play, 61-yard march on all running plays. The drive nearly ate up half of the first period, with the touchdown tallied with 6:38 on the clock.
Grace Brethen followed with a seven-play, 72-yard march that gave the Lancers lead for good at 14-7.
There was also a 16-play, 84-yard drive that ended with Kevin Aranda's 27-yard field goal and a 17-7 lead near the close of the second quarter.
Moorpark's offense opened the game like it might keep pace.
The Musketeers drove 62 yards in nine plays to tie the game at 7-7 with 2:36 remaining in the first quarter. The score came on Sturgill's 4-yard pass to Noah Cronquist.
After that, there was only frustration for Moorpark.
Sturgill finished 17 of 24 for 166 yards, one touchdown, one interception and one loss fumble on a sack.
Drake London was the main weapon on offense with six catches for 94 yards.
The Moorpark cause wasn't helped in the second quarter when running back Alec Powell was sidelined with an injured right ankle.
London, the senior receiver headed to USC, said the Musketeers need to regroup.
"We've got to be more physical, plain and simple," he said. "(The Lancers) were physical tonight, and we've got to do a better job matching that."
Moorpark now plays a must-win game next Friday if it hopes to stay in contention for a league crown. The Musketeers will host Camarillo in their Week 8 contest.