PLEASANT HILL -- The Clayton Valley Charter High football team made school history Friday night.
Under first-year coach Tim Murphy, the top-seeded Eagles celebrated the first North Coast Section title in the school's 54-year history by beating Rancho Cotate-Rohnert Park 35-7 in the Division II final at Diablo Valley College.
"It feels amazing, I've never felt anything like it," said senior Curtis Grant, who had an interception and caught a touchdown pass in the victory. "All of our hard work from summer, everything we've been through from running, summer practices, weight training, it just feels amazing."
The top-seeded Eagles (12-1) made the No. 2 Cougars (12-1) pay for five turnovers while not committing any of their own in rainy conditions.
In the first half, Curtis Grant and Garrett Nelson each intercepted Rancho Cotate quarterback Michael Courchaine, and lineman Logan Bangert recovered a fumble after a high snap sailed over Courchaine's head.
All three turnovers gave Clayton Valley field position inside the Cougars' 20-yard line, helping the Eagles take a commanding 28-0 lead at the half.
"The whole year I think the defense has been overlooked a little bit because our offense is scoring so many points, but our defense is really showing up," said Murphy. "I feel like we were a lot more balanced than we'd been so far this year."
Standout running back Joe Protheroe, who has owned the Clayton Valley's single-season rushing record for several weeks now, was held to a season-low 116 rushing yards, but returned the second-half kickoff 94 yards for a score and scored three total TDs.
On the season, Protheroe has 2,895 yards and 34 touchdowns. There's a good chance that number could grow. In all likelihood, the Eagles' spectacular season isn't over yet.
Clayton Valley is expected to receive heavy consideration for a berth to the Northern California Division II regional game next week.
Other teams in the mix for the NorCal Division II game include Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champion Oakdale and Enterprise-Redding of the Northern Section.
Matchups for the regional games will be determined and announced Sunday. The Eagles feel confident they'll receive good news.
Regional game winners then advance to the state bowl games in Carson the weekend of Dec. 14-15 to face the Southern California regional champions.
Though it's the first section title for Clayton Valley, it's the fourth for Murphy. He also earned an NCS title with Ygnacio Valley in 1999 then won two Central Section crowns with Clovis East.
"Coach Murphy is an amazing coach," Grant said. "He turned this whole program around."
Clayton Valley had reached section title games four other times, but fell short in all of them. Most recently, the Eagles lost to Cardinal Newman-Santa Rosa 17-7 in the 2008 Division II championship game.
Rancho Cotate's Jalon Luque rushed for a game-high 138 yards, putting him a over 2,000 over the season, but the Eagles defense didn't allow him to score. Clayton Valley held a 35-0 lead before Tanoa Pelei scored on a 1-yard run midway through the third quarter.
Quarterback Mike Protheroe, Joe's younger brother, accounted for two Clayton Valley touchdowns.