CAMPBELL — Bralyn Lux, all season long, has been one of the most potent running backs in the Central Coast Section.
On the CCS championship stage, though, he was Lux deluxe.
The King’s Academy (11-2 overall) took home its first CCS football championship in program history, pummeling top-seed Carmel with a relentless ground attack for a 41-14 victory Saturday night.
Lux shattered his career-high mark with 331 rushing yards on 30 carries, totaling three touchdowns, including a 23-yard score two minutes into the third quarter to break a 14-14 halftime tie to give the No. 3-seed Knights the lead for good.
“Bralyn is the most special football player I’ve ever coached, not even close,” TKA head coach Pete Lavorato said, “because he has speed, he has agility and he’s tough. … He’s just a frickin’ stud.”
It has taken Lavorato just two seasons at TKA to make history repeat itself. Previous to taking over the varsity program for the Knights in 2017, he was the head coach at Sacred Heart Prep for 14 years. In that time, he led the Gators to six CCS championship games, five CCS titles — and the program’s first-ever CCS crown in 2010.
So, it seemed fitting that prior to TKA winning the Division V title in a twin bill Saturday night at Westmont High School, the first game of the evening saw Sacred Heart Prep playing for the Open Division III championship. SHP fell to Aptos in a 35-34 heartbreaker.
Lavorato, though, said none of his focus went toward the sentiment of SHP taking the same field the same night his TKA team was playing for a championship.
“I love Sacred Heart,” Lavorato said. “Fourteen years is a long time … and I’m really proud of what we did in that time. Where they are now — (SHP head coach) Mark Grieb is a great coach — but, no, [TKA] team is my team now.”
It certainly is. It took one entire season for TKA to grow into Lavorato’s sophisticated fly offense. The Knights ran an abbreviated version of it in 2017. This year they unleashed the entire playbook, though, and finished off the championship ride with the most spectacular results yet.
TKA outgained Aptos 449-215 in total yards, and this without Lux’s backfield counterpart Jayden Frazier, as the junior departed with a knee injury during the Knights’ first possession of the game.
Lux wasn’t entirely a one-man show, though. Junior running back Zach Lewman added seven carries for 45 yards and a touchdowns, sophomore two-way standout Noah Short carried four times for 42 yards, and senior quarterback Caleb Tan carried three times for 14 yards and two touchdowns.
All told, the Knights rushed for 433 yards as a team, paced by Lux’s tireless performance, as the 6-foot senior welcomed contact to fight for second- and third-effort yards all night long.
“It’s the last year, I’m going to put it all on the field,” Lux said. “I’m not going to let [the team] down. I’m going to leave it all on the field.”
And TKA’s offensive line sprung him for big gains as the night wore on. Lux was impressively versatile, lining up at running back, slot receiver and wide receiver throughout the game.
“I love it,” Lux said. “When I get in space, I can do so much more stuff.”
He went flying past the 100-yard plateau on the first play of the second quarter, sweeping around the left side for a 50-yard score to give the Knights a 14-0 lead for his longest run of the night. But he added gains of 48, 44 and 30.
“If there’s a hole there, the other team is in trouble,” Lavorato said.
Through the first quarter, though, it was TKA’s defense that set the tone. Carmel opened with good field position at its own 36-yard line, but the Knights forced a three-and-out to get their offense on the board with 11:42 on the clock.
The time, however, was inaccurate throughout the first half due to technical difficulties with the scoreboard. After myriad failures to effectively run the clock in the first quarter, the referees controlled the time from the field throughout the second quarter. This added additional minutes to the real playing time throughout the first half. The problem was resolved during halftime and the second-half clock ran smoothly.
TKA’s first two possessions of the night ended in turnovers. First, the Knights fumbled at the Carmel 2-yard line to spoil their opening drive. Then after another quick defensive stop, Tan was intercepted by Dakota Mornhinweg on the second play of TKA’s second possession.
Like clockwork, though, the TKA defense — with Carmel starting near midfield — forced another harmless three-and-out.
“I think our defense was unbelievable,” Lavorato said.
The Knights took over at their 15, then marched 85 yards on nine plays, all running plays, including Lux’s 48-yard dash off tackle to advance to the Carmel 1. Tan dove in for the score on the next play to give TKA a 7-0 lead. The Knights doubled the lead after a four-down stop by their defense to force a turnover on downs near midfield. Two plays later, Lux scored on his 50-yard sweep.
Carmel answered with a 95-yard kickoff return, with Luke Melcher taking it to the house to get the Padres on the board. Carmel would score its only offensive touchdown later in the quarter, using 14 plays to go 78 yards to score on a 2-yard run by Mornhinweg to tie it 14-14.
The second half, though, was all TKA. The Knights scored on each of its four possessions, while Carmel — a team that previously won 12 straight games while outscoring opponents 548-114 — rushed for just 22 yards in the second half.
Padres quarterback Kai Raine Lee did complete eight straight passes to open the second half, and was 20-of-26 passing for 154 yards. But after TKA put the game away midway through the fourth quarter on a 3-yard TD run by Lewman, Knights defensive end Matt Wilson added the finishing touch by stifling Carmel’s next possession with a third-down sack.
“That was awesome,” Wilson said. “It was a great feeling.”
Wilson is one of two two-way linemen for TKA, playing as a tackle on the left side of the offensive line with senior guard Preston Auger. The two also team on the interior line on defense.
“I just think our line has played great all season, our running backs have played great all season, and I just think they have a great future,” Wilson said.
Short emerged as another two-way standout this season, playing both running back and linebacker. In addition to his four rushes, he was a prominent blocking back clearing the way for Lux throughout. And on defense, he paced TKA with 11 total tackles, including six solo tackles.
Short’s performance this season earned him high praise from Lavorato, who compared his sophomore campaign to that of someone who is becoming something of a household name in Pac-12 football circles — the third-leading collegiate tackler in the nation, who played for Lavorato at Sacred Heart Prep — University of Washington linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven.
“Ben was a great football player … but this kid Noah Short is as good as Ben was as a sophomore,” Lavorato said.