In what figures to be a great story that few will believe, Hart High upset Antelope Valley, 35-28, to capture the Southern Section Division II football championship Friday night at Antelope Valley.
The underdog Indians, who won Southern Section championships in 1983 and 1986, ended a long run of playoff disappointments.
The Hart-break began in 1987 when the Indians missed a field goal in the final seconds and lost to Arroyo Grande in the semifinals, and culminated last year in a 36-15 loss to Antelope Valley in the title game.
In between, highly regarded Hart teams suffered a series of gut-wrenching defeats in the playoffs.
Last year as the favorite, Hart committed four turnovers in the first half while playing on its home field at College of the Canyons.
This year it was Antelope Valley as the favorite playing at home in front of about 6,000 and getting shocked after it pulled out to a 21-7 lead in the second quarter.
But Hart scored four consecutive touchdowns while shutting out the high-powered Antelopes for 16 minutes.
Hart’s 28-point run started with Ted Iacenda rushing 13 yards for a touchdown late in the second quarter to make it 21-14 at halftime.
Iacenda, who scored three touchdowns to end his high-school career with 99, broke loose on a 45-yard run with the Indians facing fourth down and three yards to go to tie it, 21-21.
“This is big time . . . big time,” said Iacenda, who gained 163 yards in 30 carries. “We just wanted to take care of business. They were talking a lot of trash in the paper about who choked last year.”
After Antelope Valley was stopped for the first time, Steve McKeon hooked up with Cody Joyce for a 64-yard touchdown to take the lead on the only long pass play the run-and-shooting Indians tried.
After Antelope quarterback Bobby Brown fumbled when hit by C.J. Port and Robbie Cruikshank recovered for Hart, the Indians made it 35-21 on a three-yard sweep by McKeon.
McKeon completed eight of 10 passes for 163 yards. Joyce caught four of them for 115.
Jermaine Lewis rushed for 270 yards and two touchdowns in 28 carries and did everything he could to help Antelope Valley repeat, including a 65-yard scoring run on the first play after McKeon’s touchdown run to make it 35-28.
“I’m in shock right now,” Lewis said. “What you live for in high-school football is to play in a game like this. When you’re a senior, all you really want to do is win.”
Hart (12-2) rolled up 357 yards and 15 first downs. Antelope Valley (12-2) had 389 yards and 13 first downs.
“The key was ball control, nothing more,” McKeon said. “We had no interceptions. We had a game plan and we stuck to it.”
Antelope Valley wasted no time on the game’s opening possession, when Brown threw a pass in the flat to Tony Walker, who juked a defender on the sideline and streaked between the safeties for a 50-yard touchdown on the third play.
Casey Keltner blocked David Aranzubia’s extra-point kick, and Hart responded by marching 83 yards in 15 plays to take the lead.
Iacenda scored on a one-yard run and Kevin McLaughlin’s extra point made it 7-6.
Lewis scored on a six-yard run to make it 14-7 and Antelope Valley, following a fumble by Joyce on an end-around after Hart reached the Antelope six, threatened to blow Hart out when Brown hit Trymon Redick with a 16-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-7.