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HomeBlocksFront-GridMuir Wins CIF Title, Reaches State Bowl Game

Muir Wins CIF Title, Reaches State Bowl Game

First published in the Dec. 15 print issue of the Pasadena Outlook.

The John Muir High School varsity football team, which won five consecutive postseason games en route to the CIF Southern Section Division X championship game, had its season come to an end in a Northern California rainstorm last weekend.
The Mustangs concluded one of their finest seasons in the past three decades with a narrow 9-6 loss at Hughson High School, located near Modesto, on Saturday evening.
“The weather was bad; it rained hard. From the 25-yard line to the [other] 25-yard line between the hashmarks it was all mud,” said Muir head coach Lance Mitchell. “I haven’t seen a field this bad.
“But that’s not an excuse. Both teams had to play on the same field. They were the better team that game.”
Driving rain during part of the first half wreaked havoc on both teams’ offenses, as evidenced by the score. The Mustangs fumbled on their first offensive play, and Hughson recovered inside Muir’s 10-yard line.
The host Huskies took advantage, scoring a quick touchdown for a 7-0 lead.
Hughson increased the lead later in the first quarter when Muir could not execute a punt deep in its own category and the ball went out of the end zone, resulting in a safety and a 9-0 Huskies lead.
Muir got on the scoreboard in the third quarter when standout Makhi Clark scored on a 7-yard run. However, a fumbled snap on the conversion attempt kept the score at 9-6, and neither team scored again.
Hughson concluded its season with the state divisional title and a 13-2 record. Muir finished the season as CIF Southern Section Division X champion with a 9-7 overall record.
It was a remarkable turnaround by the Mustangs, according to the school’s principal as well as its head coach.
“I can’t say enough about these guys,” Mitchell said of his players. “They faced a lot of adversity; we had a ton of injuries. We started the season 0-3.
“Then we got beat up in the Turkey Tussle,” the coach said, referring to the Mustangs’ 47-0 loss to archrival Pasadena High School on Oct. 26.
“As young men, it’s hard to commit when you don’t see the fruits of your labor,” Mitchell continued. “The season wasn’t going the way that we wanted it to. But we stuck to it, which is a testament to their perseverance. You go through the adversity … and keep your faith at what God is doing.”
Muir Principal Lawton Gray lauded the effort of the coaches and players.
“The coaching staff are good role models and they care so much about the kids,” Gray said. “Lance Mitchell is an outstanding man … and has the ability to connect with the kids. They were beat handily by PHS, but the kids picked themselves up. They learned how to fight through adversity and stay together as a team.”
Many point to the disappointing Turkey Tussle loss to the rival Bulldogs as the season’s turning point. After the defeat, Muir reeled off five consecutive postseason victories. In the CIF-SS Division X playoffs, the Mustangs defeated Tustin, 28-21, in the first round; won at Norwalk, 21-0, in the quarterfinals; pounded host Baldwin Park, 28-7, in the semifinals; then shut out Salesian High of Los Angeles, 21-0, in the championship game. That was followed by their first state playoff game, where they traveled to Blythe and throttled Palo Verde Valley High, 33-7, setting up last week’s matchup at Hughson.
“We did a lot of great things that hadn’t been done [by Muir’s football team] in a very long time,” Mitchell said. “One of the biggest things we have to do moving forward is get resources; we are looking for resources. I believe sports helps other aspects of life [for these students]. Now we need to get the community to really give back to the school and to the program. It’s hard to compete when our facilities are so old and obsolete. We need to reach out to our community [for assistance].”
Mayor Victor Gordo, a graduate of rival Pasadena High, had nothing but praise for Muir. “Pasadena is proud of the John Muir Mustangs and the Mustang family for such a great season,” he said in a statement. “The Mustangs left it all on the field. Go ’Stangs!”
For Mitchell, it was a remarkable first season as Muir’s head coach.
“I’m super proud of these dudes,” Mitchell said of his team. “It’s been a storybook season.”

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