HEADS OR TAILS
Three of four South Bay teams won coin flips Saturday allowing them to play at home for next week's CIF-Southern Section semifinals.
In Division VIII, second-seeded Morningside will face South Bay nemesis Temecula Valley at Sentinel Field in Inglewood and surprising Palos Verdes will meet top-seeded Cabrillo of Lompoc at North Torrance High.
Temecula Valley has advanced to the semifinals with victories over Rolling Hills and West Torrance.
In Division VII, top-seeded Serra will be at home against Arroyo Grande in a rematch of a 1989 playoff game. The Cavaliers needed a last-minute touchdown to beat Arroyo Grande, 32-25, in the quarterfinals last year. It turned out to be their closest call on the way to the Division VII title.
All area teams will play Friday night, except Hawthorne. The Cougars lost their flip and will face St. Paul in a Division III semifinal Saturday night at Cerritos College.
Esperanza running back Jarod Smith shredded the Leuzinger defense Friday night. He ran through it. He ran around it. Most of all, though, he smashed the Olympians' spirit.
And all he needed was a play.
Leuzinger had just completed what might have been its most impressive drive of the season. Taking the second-half kickoff, the Olympians marched 80 yards in 16 playas to score on a seven-yard run by quarterback Gary Mumin.
It pulled Leuzinger within three points, 10-7, of the top-seeded Aztecs.
But on Esperanza's first play from scrimmage following the kickoff, Smith got it all back. He burst through the line and scored on a 66-yard run.
So, after taking nearly nine minutes to score, Leuzinger watched as Smith wiped it out in a matter of seconds. The Olympians never recovered, going on to lose, 31-7, in the CIF Division III quarterfinals at Leuzinger.
"I think that hurt 'em pretty bad," Esperanza Coach Gary Meek said. "They drove the ball down 80 yards on us and physically got after us. We were in shock. Not too many people do that to us. And then when Jarod broke that run, that just broke their back. If they would have stopped us on that next series, then I think they would have been in the ball game."
Leuzinger Coach Steve Carnes agreed.
"We let them off the hook," he said. "I thought when we scored, we may have gotten some momentum back. But when (Smith) popped that one, that hurt."
Smith, who finished with 278 yards in 16 carries, went on to score two more touchdowns, including a 71-yard run with seven seconds left to play. He had four carries in the second half for 159 yards.
It didn't help that Leuzinger's best defensive player, linebacker Manny Gonzalez, was hobbled with a sprained ankle that hindered his mobility.
All four of Leuzinger's losses this season came against teams advancing to the CIF semifinals: Paramount (12-0, Division II), Canyon of Canyon Country (11-1, Division I), Hawthorne (10-2, Division III) and Esperanza (12-0).
Morningside, as it has frequently this season, benefited from the big play Friday night in a 32-14 Division VIII quarterfinal victory over Torrance.
Trailing 14-13 early in the fourth quarter, the Monarchs took control with two quick touchdowns on a 42-yard punt return by Kenny Birdine and a 45-yard run by quarterback Stais Boseman.
"We had a little explosion," Morningside Coach Ron Tatum said. "That's a good term for it--an explosion."
Once again, it was the explosive running ability of Boseman that did the most damage. The rangy 6-foot-3 sophomore carried the ball 18 times for 142 yards and two touchdowns and passed for another TD.
"Stais runs the option extremely well," Tatum said. "Once those legs pick up, that boy can get out there. That stride makes a big difference. That separates him from the defense."
Asked if Morningside is capable of winning the division title, Tatum said: "I believe we need to work on our passing. But if we get that improved and our running continues to do the job like it did tonight, we should be on course."
Hawthorne rallied for 17 points in the fourth quarter Friday night to pull out a 17-9 Division III quarterfinal victory over Loara in Anaheim, but Coach Goy Casillas gave most of the credit to his defense.
"Our defense played its best game of the year," he said. "We had two nice goal-line stands."
Casillas singled out linebackers Troy Fain and Danda Goodnight for their exceptional play.
The Cougars figure to need another strong defensive effort Saturday night, when they meet St. Paul in the semifinals at Cerritos College. The Swordsmen have given up only 15 points in two playoff games, and routed Beverly Hills, 42-7, Friday night.
Palos Verdes, among the South Bay's weaker passing teams during the regular season, suddenly is airing it out in the Division VIII playoffs.
Quarterback Tim King completed nine of 18 passes for 193 yards Friday night in a 21-7 victory over Bloomington at North Torrance High to give him 388 yards passing in two playoff games. He threw for only 428 yards in the regular season.
What's made the difference?
"We're giving him pass protection and his arm is fine now," Coach Bill Judy said. "He had some shoulder problems around midseason. Now he's fine. He has no pain."
The offensive line has contributed to King's health. In two playoff games, he has yet to be sacked.
Kudos to Mira Costa Coach Larry Petrill and his staff for another fine job.
When Petrill took over the Mustang program in 1989, the team was coming off a 1-9 season. In the two years since then, Mira Costa has posted back-to-back winning records (6-5 and 6-5-1) and reached the playoffs twice.
The Mustangs lost in the first round last year and went a game farther this season, losing in the Division VIII quarterfinals to Cabrillo of Lompoc, 14-10, Friday night. Mira Costa led top-seeded Cabrillo at halftime, 10-0, but gave up two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
The final three minutes of the second quarter proved to be West Torrance's undoing Friday night in a 31-17 Division VIII quarterfinal loss to visiting Temecula Valley.
A fumbled kickoff at the West 14-yard line led to a quick Temecula Valley touchdown and a 24-10 lead with 2:40 left in the half. Then, after West drove to the Temecula Valley two, the Warriors were stopped short of the end zone on four consecutive running plays by running back Alex Schultz.
"The second quarter killed us," co-Coach Mark Knox said. "That was the 14-point difference right there."
Serra quarterback-linebacker Alex Marcellin suffered a sprained ankle in the third quarter of a 34-6 victory over La Mirada and did not return. He was assisted from the field after the game and is questionable for Friday's game against Arroyo Grande.
* Serra defeated La Mirada, 34-6, to extend its winning streak to 24 games overall and six games in the playoffs.
* Morningside defeated Torrance, 32-14, for its eighth consecutive victory.
* Palos Verdes defeated Bloomington, 21-7, for its third consecutive victory after it had lost four in a row.
Torrance receiver-defensive back Antone Williamson, on his team's 32-14 loss to Morningside: "They're just a quick team. They can break one in a second. They broke a couple of tackles and exploded. Speed conquers."
Morningside receiver-defensive back Kenny Birdine, on his 42-yard punt return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter that gave the Monarchs a 19-14 lead: "I was thinking end zone . . . I saw an opening right away. Nobody covered real hard, so that gave me some space to do what I had to do."
Palos Verdes Coach Bill Judy, on defensive tackle Charlie Hitchcock, who had three of the team's nine sacks in a 21-7 victory over Bloomington: "He was in the backfield like a shot. "
Leuzinger Coach Steve Carnes, on a roughing-the-punter penalty that kept alive an Esperanza scoring drive early in the fourth quarter: "That just wiped us out."
West Torrance co-Coach Mark Knox, after his team's 31-17 loss to Temecula Valley: "We played hard and had a good year, although there were a couple of disappointments. We would have liked to have beaten Torrance and we'd like to be playing next week."