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Pleasant Valley takes down Chico for D2 title: Northern Section roundup

Vikings turn the tables on cross-town rival Chico after the Panthers won 35-0 six weeks ago

The Northern Section Division 2, Division 3 and Division 4 champions remained the same in 2023 as they did in 2022, with a new champion crowned in Division 5.

Pleasant Valley-Chico defeated cross-town rival Chico 28-19 in D2, Orland beat Lassen 41-21 in D3, and Colusa knocked off Winters 42-13 in D4. 

Portola defeated Biggs in D5 to round out the Northern Section.

All eyes were on the D2 matchup not only because it pits the section's largest schools, but because the longstanding rivalry between the two teams. 

The teams play in league every season in the Almond Bowl, won just six week ago by Chico, 35-0 to take a 26-25-1 series lead. 

However come playoffs, specifically section championships, the Vikings have the advantage. The Vikings have defeated the Panthers in five of six section title games, and have won six in the last 10 seasons (2015, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2022 and now 2023). 

Saturday was a battle of rushing attacks. Pleasant Valley's Lucas Benson rushed 24 times for 104 yards and four TDs, while Panthers’ RB Dion Coleman had 15 carries for 121 yards and two scores. 

Benson rushed for four touchdowns for the second straight playoff game after exiting the Almond Bowl in the second half with a separated shoulder that forced him to miss the Vikings final three regular-season games.

The Vikings of Pleasant Valley celebrate their Northern Section D2 title

The Vikings of Pleasant Valley celebrate their Northern Section D2 title

The Vikings made it a focus to work on tackling low all week, after Coleman set an Almond Bowl record with five TDs maneuvering his way through the Viking defense.

Despite Coleman's big game Saturday, the effort in tackling worked as the Panthers were forced to pass the ball much more Saturday.

“The difference today versus the Almond Bowl is that we believed today. Today we had the belief,” Pleasant Valley coach Mark Cooley said. “We’ve been working on it all week long about not being afraid of these guys. I know that they’re really good and Dion is a special young man, but we can do this because we have a team that can compete also.”

Takeaways on Pleasant Valley vs. Chico

  • Whether it be Pleasant Valley or Chico, the play of the offensive line and the rushing attack is a key part of either team’s success.
  • With the return of running back Lucas Benson, the Vikings’ offense looks completely different and they look to run it through him in key times.
  • Pleasant Valley's ability to lower their pad level and tackle players like Coleman low helped keep the Panthers’ offense intact.
  • Two penalties in the final five minutes gave the Vikings two crucial first downs.
  • If the Vikings are going to succeed at the state level they must find a way to balance a successful pass attack with the strong play of their running backs.

Scoring plays

  • Q1, 7:26 | C — Dion Coleman 13-yard rush, PAT missed. CHS 6, PVHS 0
  • Q2, 8:57 | PV — Lucas Benson 3-yard rush, PAT good. PVHS 7, CHS 6
  • Q2, 3:32 | PV — Lucas Benson 7-yard rush, PAT good. PVHS 14, CHS 6
  • Q3, 9:16 | C — Dion Coleman 57-yard rush, 2-pt no good. PVHS 14, CHS 12
  • Q3, 2:13 | PV — Lucas Benson 1-yard rush, PAT good. PVHS 21, CHS 12
  • Q4, 9:19 | C — Azari Cruz 30-yard pass to Johnny Padilla, PAT good. PVHS 21, CHS 19
  • Q4, 2:16 | PV — Lucas Benson 13-yard rush, PAT good. PVHS 28, CHS 19

Division 3

Top seed Orland trailed No. 4 Lassen 21-12 at halftime and didn’t take the lead until four minutes remained in the third quarter. Despite trailing at halftime, the Trojans outscored the Grizzlies 29-0 in the second half. The Trojans scored 15 points in the third quarter and 14 points in the fourth quarter.

The Trojans’ rushing attack, which led them to a Division 5-A state championship last season, gashed Lassen for 446 yards and five TDs. Manny Rodriguez led with 140 yards and two scores. Isaac Velasquez had 126 yards and one score and Jaime Albarran contributed 80 yards and a score. 

Orland’s defense was just as key, forcing five turnovers (four fumbles, one interception) while adding two sacks. 

The Vikings celebrate some more. 

The Vikings celebrate some more.