When it comes to pure talent, perhaps no team in Southern California is as loaded as Gardena Serra.
Twelve Cavaliers have received Division I scholarship offers, and heading the list is Adoree' Jackson, who scored twice in 90 seconds in the third quarter, including a 102-yard interception return that highlighted Friday night's 36-13 victory over reigning City Section champion Harbor City Narbonne.
"What makes Adoree' special? That's a 20-minute conversation," Coach Scott Altenberg said about his multi-position star, who already had more than 30 offers in May and is being recruited by schools including UCLA, USC, Michigan, Florida, Florida State, Illinois and Louisiana State. "No one enjoys life more than him, no one has more fun. He's a joy to be around, and talent-wise he's right up there with [wide receivers] Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. Great as those two were, I never asked them to play running back. Adoree' does it all."
With UCLA Coach Jim Mora watching from the sideline, Jackson displayed video game-like moves in the second quarter when he lined up to punt, but instead took the snap, raced upfield, shook two tacklers and even hurdled a defender on his way to a 52-yard gain. He finished with 78 yards in eight carries, caught three passes and pinned Narbonne inside its 10 with a 45-yard punt. His five-yard scoring run gave the Cavaliers a commanding 29-7 lead midway through the third quarter.
"I haven't decided where I want to go yet. Right now it's about being hungry, humble, healthy and happy," Jackson said. "On the fake [punt] I just improvised. Coach has trust in me that I do the right thing and I thought I could get it. We were a little sluggish at first and I have to be the spark to the fire to get us going."
Boise State-bound quarterback Jalen Greene shook off two interceptions and a lost fumble to run for 81 yards and throw for 81 more, including a five-yard touchdown pass to UCLA commit Jordan Lasley. Darrion Naylor added 49 yards and two touchdowns in 14 carries and Sifa Maama kicked a 32-yard field goal for Serra (5-0).
"This was very important as a pride thing," said linebacker Dwight Williams, who has more than 60 offers and wants to decide by the Army All-American game Jan. 4 in Texas.
"Narbonne got us [22-9] last season and in my three years starting on varsity I've never beaten them, so it was a big deal."
Williams had two sacks and an interception, his third of the season, as the Cavaliers forced four turnovers, and the Gauchos (3-2) were limited to 59 yards in the first half. Dual-threat quarterback Eban Jackson completed 13 of 27 passes for 135 yards, but ran for only 13 yards and felt constant pressure from Serra's front four.
"Dwight has a motor -- he can really fly," Altenberg said of Williams, who averages nearly eight tackles per game. "The defense tends to be overlooked at times but we have playmakers on that side of the ball as well."
Other Serra seniors who have received Division I college offers are wide receiver Gregory Webb (San Jose State); defensive backs Glen Ihenacho (UCLA, Arizona State, California, Colorado, Washington, Washington State) and Jalen Jones (Nevada); defensive end Olajuwon Tucker (Miami, Arizona State, San Diego State) and linebacker Malachi Mageo (San Jose State). Linebacker John Houston and defensive lineman Rasheem Green, both juniors, also have multiple offers.
Despite injuries to several key players that would have derailed most programs, Serra is still among the area's elite teams. The biggest loss was junior running back Malik Roberson, who is out for the season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament while long jumping at the Southern Section Masters Meet last spring. He has offers from the likes of UCLA, Arizona State, Oregon State, Colorado State and San Diego State. Sophomore receiver/defensive back Brandon Burton fractured his tibia prior to Serra's first game and likely won't be ready to play until November.
"We might be more talented than last season, but we're missing key guys in some spots -- especially at running back," Altenberg said. "Hopefully we can overcome that with our experience and not turning the ball over."
With so many heavily-recruited players on their roster, it's no wonder that the Cavaliers are ranked No. 1 in the Southern Section's Western Division and are favored to repeat as Division II state bowl champions. He refuses to entertain the idea this early in the season, but Altenberg knows that if his team runs the table it will be considered for the Open Division bowl.
"That's not something I'm even worried about because it's out of our control," Altenberg said. "Of course we'd love to be in that conversation and if we were invited we wouldn't say no, but that's a long, long way off."