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ERIC SONDHEIMER / ON HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL

St. John Bosco caps undefeated season with Open Division bowl victory

In the battle of unbeaten teams, the Braves take advantage of a key interception late in the game to hold on for a 20-14 victory over perennial powerhouse Concord De La Salle.

Eric Sondheimer

11:16 PM PST, December 21, 2013

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By game time on Saturday night for the CIF state championship Open Division bowl game, there was an unheard-of occurrence. Hundreds of fans were stuck in long lines outside StubHub Center trying to buy a ticket for the game of the year in high school football.

The lure of seeing unbeaten Bellflower St. John Bosco take on unbeaten Concord De La Salle produced a crowd of 16,791, the largest in the eight-year history of CIF bowl games. And what a game it was.

Clinging to a six-point lead, St. John Bosco got an interception from lineman Gavin Windes on fourth down at the 38-yard line with 2:15 left, and the Braves held on for a 20-14 victory.

St. John Bosco finishes 16-0, one of only 11 teams nationwide with a 16-0 record.

De La Salle (14-1) had a 40-game win streak come to an end and it was the first time the Spartans had lost to a team from California since 2008.

"It's just an amazing atmosphere and an amazing moment," St. John Bosco defensive back Chandler Hawkins said. "I love every bit of it. Me and my team dug deep."

Junior quarterback Josh Rosen completed 12 of 17 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore running back Sean McGrew rushed for 143 yards in 24 carries. Jaleel Wadood caught five passes for 113 yards, including touchdowns of 60 and seven yards.

St. John Bosco was cruising along with a 20-7 lead when De La Salle quarterback Chris Williams connected with Marquis Morris for a 49-yard touchdown with 6:26 left to pull the Spartans within 20-14.

On the same field were more than 20 players considered college prospects because of their size, speed and athleticism. It was strength against strength, particularly the battle on the line, where 300-pounders were colliding with 300-pounders.

St. John Bosco was matching the Spartans in execution. The defense, with Hawkins and Chandler Leniu leading the way, denied the big play and made firm tackling a priority.

De La Salle has been known for its quick starts, but St. John Bosco was the team that came away with a 17-7 halftime lead.

Rosen had touchdown passes of 60 and seven yards to Wadood, and Reid Budrovich kicked a 35-yard field goal. It was the Braves' balance on offense that caused De La Salle problems. McGrew had 92 yards rushing and Rosen completed seven of nine passes for 97 yards.

De La Salle's lone successful first-half drive resulted in an 11-yard second-quarter touchdown run by John Velasco.

The third quarter was scoreless, and St. John Bosco can blame the officials for that. They called five holding penalties on the Braves, one of which nullified a 51-yard touchdown run by McGrew and caused Coach Jason Negro to get a little heated on the sideline.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com