Brent Newcomb, football coach at Antelope Valley High, doesn't mince words when discussing how his team reached the Coastal Conference semifinals.
"We're lucky to be here," he says.
There are about 50 Ventura players who would second that assertion.
Antelope Valley defeated Ventura, 14-10, last Friday on an interception and touchdown drive with less than two minutes left in the game.
Newcomb described the interception this way: "One of our guys hit the quarterback, one of our linemen was laying flat on his back and the ball popped up and landed right in his arms."
The Antelopes then drove 63 yards in three plays for the game-winning touchdown and the right to meet Thousand Oaks on Friday night.
At this point, Antelope Valley's luck may have run out.
While the Antelopes (9-3) were scrambling to reach the semifinals, Thousand Oaks was running over Antelope Valley's Golden League rival, Palmdale, 31-7.
Thousand Oaks (10-1-1) got 153 yards rushing and three touchdowns from tailback Marc Monestime in routing a team that had defeated Antelope Valley, 14-12, during the regular season.
"You hold Palmdale to seven points and you're doing a great job," Newcomb said. "And their running game, nobody has stopped it yet."
Indeed, Thousand Oaks, co-champion of the Marmonte League, seems to be peaking at the right time. The Lancers had a 22-play drive against Palmdale that lasted more than 10 minutes and covered 96 yards. That just happened to follow a goal-line stand.
Thousand Oaks has not faced such a potent passing attack this season, however. Antelope Valley quarterback Ron Whipple has completed 137 of 248 passes for 1,923 yards and 21 touchdowns. His favorite target is speedy senior Shon Grimes, who has 66 catches for 983 yards and 8 touchdowns.
Thousand Oaks linebacker Mack Humphrey said the Lancers will use the same strategy Ventura did in defensing the pass.
"We can put pressure on Whipple," he said. "It'll probably be just like Granada Hills. If we put pressure on them, we can beat them."
Granada Hills, which has highly regarded quarterback Jeremy Leach, was shut down by the Lancers, 21-12, in a nonleague game at Thousand Oaks.
That occurred on a muddy field, however, which obviously detracted from the quarterback's performance.
There should be no such excuse this time at Antelope Valley.