The second round of “The Great Running Back Debate” Saturday night in Orange Coast College’s LeBard Stadium was strictly no contest.
Derek Brown, Servite High School’s sensational tailback, rushed for 312 yards and 2 touchdowns to finally emerge from the shadow of Crespi’s Russell White in a 35-20 victory before 7,000 fans.
White, generally considered the best back in the state for the past two seasons, struggled for 81 yards, marking only the fifth time in 30 games that he was been limited to less than 100 yards in a game.
Brown, getting stronger with each of his 37 carries, gained 221 yards in the second half when Servite took control of what had been a close game. Chris Johnson, Servite quarterback, also a big hand in the turnaround.
Johnson scored two touchdowns in the second quarter on option runs of 27 and 3 yards to give Servite a 21-7 lead and Crespi never recovered, despite a fine passing performance by quarterback Ron Redell.
Crespi cut Servite’s lead to 21-14 with three minutes remaining in the third quarter and was driving for another potential touchdown, but Servite defensive back Gavin Harty intercepted a Redell pass at the Servite 14 to end Crespi’s final threat.
So much for the game. The much-publicized rematch between White and Brown overshadowed any defensive exploits, quarterback heroics or the final score for that matter. This was a meeting of the state’s best backs. They combined for 470 yards and 7 touchdowns in their last matchup--the quarterfinals of the 1987 Big Five Conference playoffs.
White had been hampered earlier in the season with a sore ankle, but he did have 17 carries and played in Crespi’s defensive secondary most of the night. He scored two touchdowns, but his longest run was 11 yards.
“I had a lot to prove and I think I showed them pretty good,” Brown said afterwards. That he did.
Brown didn’t break a long run, though he had a 57-yard touchdown run nullified in the final quarter by a penalty. Instead, the senior was a steady force, averaging 8.4 yards per carry.
“That’s what he wanted . . . that’s what we wanted,” Servite Coach Jerry Person said. “Derek has been in the shadow for so long, I was glad to see him have a game like this.”
Crespi Coach Bill Redell was equally impressed with Brown’s performance.
“He certainly put his money where his mouth is,” Redell said. “He said some things in the paper comparing himself to Russell and then went out and proved himself. He’s a great back, and he didn’t change my opinion tonight.”
Redell estimated that White was “only 90%" but added, “Servite’s defense had a lot to say about his game.”
Redell’s son, Ron, was the lone bright spot for the Celtics. He completed 17 of 23 passes for 192 yards and 2 touchdowns. Johnson passed for 58 yards and rushed for 42 yards in support of Brown’s remarkable game.
THE SHOWDOWN Comparative statistics of Servite’s Derek Brown and Crespi’s Russell White from Saturday night’s 35-20 Servite victory:
Brown White RUSHING 37 Att 17 312 Yds 81 8.4 Avg 4.8 2 TDs 1 1 Fbls 1 RECEIVING 0 Att 3 0 Yds 23 -- Avg 7.7 0 TDs 0