By mid-morning on Saturday, Josh Henderson was still not thinking much about next week's CIF-Southern Section Division 4 championship game.
Grace Brethren High's football coach was still reveling from the drama of the night before.
"This one felt nothing short of miraculous," he said. "We've had four or five games like that through the years. That's what this one was."
Matched up against unbeaten and No. 2-seeded Villa Park on its home field, Grace Brethren fell behind 21-0 at the outset and still trailed by two touchdowns with 11:24 remaining in the fourth quarter. Then came the Lancers' rally that saved a season.
Quarterback Mikey Zele contributed two big plays, including a 53-yard scoring strike to Nate Bennett that tied the game with 2:08 remaining and Lontrelle Diggs plowed into the end zone in overtime to deliver a heart-pounding, 34-31 victory in the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 semifinals Friday night.
"It was unbelievable," said Henderson. "Our athletic director R.J. Blackwell has told us that warriors respond in uncommon situations. Our kids did exactly that to win this game."
Grace Brethren won its eighth consecutive game to improve to 11-2 and earn a berth in the division championship game next Saturday. The third-seeded Lancers, who won the Division 8 title a year ago, will play host to top-seeded Corona del Mar at either Royal High or Moorpark College.
Corona del Mar routed Camarillo in their semifinal game on Friday, 49-17.
In Grace Brethren's win over Villa Park, Diggs rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns and the Lancers piled up 291 yards on the ground.
Zele was 0 for 3 heading into the final quarter. He finished with 124 passing yards while also rushing for a clutch 18-yard carry in overtime that set up Diggs' winning touchdown.
If the Lancers are decidedly a run-first team, Henderson said he has complete faith in Zele and the passing game to come through when needed.
"I don't really think we changed our style in the fourth quarter because those are plays we practice every day," Henderson said. "I have every confidence that we can be effective throwing the ball when we need to. Mikey simply executed when we needed him to make plays."Much of Grace Brethren's troubles Friday night were created by uncharacteristic errors. The Lancers fumbled three times in the opening half and all three were turnovers.
A key interception by Troy Hothan, with the Lancers trailing 21-0 in the opening half, helped spark the turnaround. The Lancers scored twice before halftime to cut the deficit to 21-14.