It has been the longest and most successful football season in school history, but unbeaten Harbor City Narbonne had never faced the dire situation it encountered on Saturday night in the CIF state regional Open Division championship bowl game.
The Gauchos were getting rolled over by Corona Centennial on the ground and through the air. By halftime, they faced their largest deficit of the season, 27-8, and Centennial fans were probably planning their tailgate parties for next week's game against Concord De La Salle at the Home Depot Center.
Except Narbonne had the two-time City Section player of the year, quarterback Troy Williams, on its side, and what a comeback he was orchestrating.
In the end, though, Centennial had its own standout quarterback in junior Robert Webber, and the Huskies withstood the Williams-led charge, 41-34, at Cerritos College.
Tre Watson caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Webber with 22 seconds left to break a 34-34 tie.
"It was crazy," Centennial Coach Matt Logan said.
Narbonne had tied the game on an A.J. Richardson three-yard run with 1:09 left. The Gauchos were forced to go for two points because Richardson, the holder, was injured on the play. Williams was stopped short on a run.
Centennial (14-1), a winner of 14 consecutive games since losing its opener to Ventura St. Bonaventure, will take on De La Salle (14-0) in next Saturday's CIF state championship Open Division bowl at the Home Depot Center in Carson.
Webber completed 20 of 37 passes for 317 yards and four touchdowns. Williams was 28 of 37 passing for 367 yards and three touchdowns. He ran for 105 yards in 11 carries and one touchdown.
What an energized second half of football it was.
Narbonne (14-1) picked up momentum at the outset of the third quarter when Centennial's Austin Renken lost the ball on a fumble on the two-yard line. The Gauchos put together a 98-yard scoring drive, with Richardson catching a 12-yard touchdown pass from Williams to cut the deficit to 27-15.
The Washington-bound Williams soon used its legs to score on a 27-yard touchdown run with 1:30 left, cutting Narbonne's deficit to 27-22.
Then came Webber's answer. On fourth-and-16 from the Narbonne 39, he completed a 21-yard pass to Ryan Pascarella. On third-and-goal, he connected with Pascarella for a 16-yard touchdown and a 34-22 lead with 9:40 left.
Williams completed his third touchdown of the night, a 14-yarder to Jontae Robertson, with 5:24 left, making it 34-28.
When it comes to executing the no-huddle, zone-read spread offense at the high school level, Corona Centennial does it better than any team in Southern California year after year. And the Huskies were at their best in the first half. Webber's running and passing enabled the Huskies to take their 27-8 halftime lead.
The Huskies rushed for 220 yards and passed for 139 yards. Webber had touchdown passes of 13 and 17 yards to Barry Ware. Austin Renken had a four-yard touchdown run. Watson had a 19-yard touchdown run. And Webber rushed for 79 yards in seven carries.
The domination on offense didn't come against any ordinary defense. Narbonne's powerful defensive line and quick linebackers had previous success against the likes of Long Beach Poly, Crenshaw, Gardena Serra and Santa Ana Mater Dei.
But Centennial's offensive line, considered the best in the Southland this season, gave Webber time and created opportunities for the running game.
Meanwhile, Narbonne's offense struggled trying to run the ball, putting pressure on Williams, who completed 11 of 14 passes for 163 yards and one touchdown in the first half.