Call it a signature victory in the latest coaching achievement for Ed Croson. His West Hills Chaminade football team got physical and tough in the second half and rallied for a 28-20 victory over Gardena Serra in a Mission League opener on Friday night.
"This was big because of the level they've played at and all the players that have come out of that program," Croson said.
Serra didn't have Marqise Lee, Robert Woods or George Farmer, but the Cavaliers (4-2) were bigger, faster and more battle-tested than the Eagles. And yet it was Chaminade (5-1) coming back from a 20-7 third-quarter deficit.
An interception by Cory Watkins of a panicked pass from Jalen Greene with 3:53 left in the third quarter started the Eagles' comeback on the Serra 27. Reggie Reed completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Garrett Brossard, cutting the deficit to 20-14.
After a 19-yard punt gave Chaminade the ball on the Serra 32, Terrell Newby scored on a 29-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter for a 21-20 lead.
Then Chaminade put together a 98-yard, 10-play drive, all on runs from Newby and Donovan Lee. Newby's eight-yard touchdown run with 5:34 left increased Chaminade's lead to 28-20.
The Cavaliers put together a final drive, moving to the Chaminade 11-yard line with 1:25 left. At that point, mistakes proved costly.
A holding penalty nullified a touchdown catch by Jordan Lasley. That was followed by another holding penalty. On fourth down from the 19, Greene's pass fell incomplete, sealing Chaminade's victory.
Newby rushed for 159 hard-earned yards in 30 carries and scored three touchdowns. Lee gained 78 yards in seven carries and had an interception.
Serra struggled with mistakes, miscues and penalties. Greene was intercepted twice. Serra had 12 penalties for 142 yards. Malik Roberson rushed for 136 yards.
"They got tired," Croson said.
Croson came to Chaminade from Lake Balboa Birmingham four years ago after winning four City Section championships. His team was beaten by Serra the last two seasons. This game showed that the Eagles could stand up to a physical challenge.
"To step up says a lot about our heart," Croson said. "The guys battled."
The first half saw both offenses sputter. Serra had a 13-7 halftime lead thanks to field goals of 28 and 34 yards from Sifi Maama and a 61-yard touchdown run by Roberson.
Chaminade's only score, a one-yard touchdown run by Newby in the first quarter, was set up by a 50-yard interception return by Lee.
It was not a productive first half for either quarterback. Brad Kaaya completed three of eight for only 12 yards and never looked comfortable. Greene was three for seven for 45 yards and was dropped three times for losses.