Just like he’s used to, Rolling Hills High football Coach Gary Kimbrell got a victory ride on the shoulders of his players to cap the season.
Kimbrell’s ride came after his Titans bested Palos Verdes on Thursday afternoon with a 21-10 upset. But for Kimbrell, the game’s finale marked only the second time in 11 years that a team he’s coached had failed to reach the playoffs.
“I’d rather not be checking in the uniforms this early,” Kimbrell said after the emotional victory at Palos Verdes. Kimbrell’s teams made playoff appearances in 9 of his 10 years as head coach at Miraleste.
Kimbrell could take solace, however, that the win pulled Rolling Hills to an even 5-5 record (3-4 in the Bay League) and also thwarted Palos Verdes’ slim chance of getting an at-large berth for the CIF Division II playoffs. The Sea Kings finished 6-4 overall and 3-4 in league play.
Rolling Hills jumped out to a 7-0 lead when defensive end Robert Patterson picked off quarterback David Walsh’s pass at the Palos Verdes 21-yard line and ran over Walsh on his way into the end zone in the first quarter.
Palos Verdes failed to capitalize when Greg Connors intercepted a pass by Rolling Hills quarterback Rick Judge at the Titan 43. The Sea Kings drove to the Rolling Hills 6 but had to settle for Lance Haworth’s 27-yard field goal in the second quarter.
Rolling Hills went 77 yards on 12 plays for a touchdown on its opening drive of the second half, mostly on hard-nosed running by Judge and tailback Tim Wagner. Judge capped the drive with a 1-yard sneak to give Rolling Hills a 14-3 lead.
But Palos Verdes came back with a long drive and, after trading fumbles with Rolling Hills deep in Titan territory, pushed the ball across on a 5-yard burst by tailback Blake Anderson.
The Sea Kings got the ball back quickly by foiling a fake punt attempt by Rolling Hills and drove to within 12 yards and 4 points of pulling out a victory with 6:15 remaining.
But on fourth down, Haworth fell on a reverse, and Rolling Hills took over. The Titans drove 86 yards and scored a final touchdown on a 44-yard pass from Judge to split end James Faulkner.
Judge rushed for 90 yards on 15 carries and Wagner added 90 on 22 attempts. Palos Verdes’ Walsh finished with 185 yards on 14 of 22 passing, 5 of them to flanker Christian Capper for 83 yards.