It was one against four at the end of the first half on a cool Friday night in the CIF state championship Division 2-AA bowl game. Darren Jones, a 6-foot-8 receiver for San Bernardino Cajon, was running down the right side of the field toward the end zone surrounded by four San Mateo Serra defensive backs. It looked like a mismatch.
As the clock was ticking down to zero, quarterback Jayden Daniels rolled right and lofted the ball toward Jones. Jones, who also plays basketball, resembled a center going up for a rebound against tiny guards. He caught it for a 48-yard touchdown, giving life to a surprisingly lackluster Cajon offense.
“Just got to give him a chance,” Daniels said.
Said Jones: “If the ball is there, I’m going to get it.”
It didn’t faze Serra, with the Padres turning to a dominant rushing attack in the second half to come away with a 38-14 victory at Sacramento State.
Cajon (14-2) scored 70 points last week in a regional bowl victory, but the Cowboys were shut out until Jones’ Hail Mary reception at the end of the first half pulled his team to within 14-7.
Cajon used the momentum to tie the score 14-14 with a 15-play, 99-yard drive with 3:30 left in the third quarter on Daniels’ six-yard touchdown run.
From there, Serra (13-2) took charge. Malakai Rango broke off a 72-yard kickoff return on a short kick to set up David Coker’s one-yard touchdown run. The lead went to 28-14 at the outset of the fourth quarter on a one-yard touchdown run by Isiah Kendrick, his third of the night.
Meanwhile, Serra’s defense kept pressuring Daniels, who was sacked seven times. And its secondary made solid tackles all night, preventing Cajon’s big-play offense from producing its usual long touchdowns.
“They were bringing it, but I was holding the ball too long,” Daniels said.
Cajon never really figured out how to stop Serra’s double-wing attack. Kendrick finished with four touchdowns and rushed for 110 yards in 26 carries. Coker had 140 yards in 13 carries.
Cajon outgained the Padres 496-414. Daniels went past 5,000 yards passing for the season. He completed 27 of 39 attempts for 340 yards with one interception. Jones caught nine passes for 127 yards.
Serra’s defensive coordinator, Chris Vasseur, said of Jones, “That kid is awesome. He’s one of the best football players I’ve seen on film. How do you stop him?”
Jones finished the season with 101 catches for 2,089 yards and 28 touchdowns. He had to sit out last season after transferring from Upland. He left the field limping but insisted he’ll be out for basketball practice Monday.