The second round of “The Great Running Back Debate” on Saturday night in Orange Coast College’s LeBard Stadium was strictly no contest.
Derek Brown, Servite High’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 2 seasons, struggled for 81 yards, marking only the fifth time in 30 games that he has been limited to less than 100 yards.
Brown gained 221 yards in the second half when Servite took control of what had been a close game. Chris Johnson, Servite’s quarterback, also had a big hand in the turnaround.
Johnson scored touchdowns in the second quarter on option runs of 27 and 3 yards to give Servite a 21-7 lead, and Crespi never recovered.
Crespi cut Servite’s lead to 21-14 with 3 minutes remaining in the third quarter and was driving for another possible touchdown, but defensive back Gavin Harty intercepted a Ron Redell pass at the Servite 14-yard line 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. This was a meeting of the state’s best backs.
White had been hampered earlier in the season because of a sore ankle, but he did have 17 carries and played in Crespi’s defensive secondary most of the night. He scored 2 touchdowns, but his longest run was 11 yards.
“I had a lot to prove and I think I showed them pretty good,” Brown said. That he did.
Brown did not break a long run, although he had a 57-yard touchdown run nullified in the final quarter by a penalty. Instead, the senior was a steady force, carrying 37 times and averaging 8.4 yards.
“That’s what he wanted . . . that’s what we wanted,” said Jerry Person, Servite’s coach. “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’s son Ron was the lone bright spot for the Celts. He completed 17 of 23 for 192 yards and 2 touchdowns. Johnson passed for 58 yards and rushed for 42 yards in support of Brown.