After Palos Verdes Peninsula High built a commanding 22-point first-quarter lead in its final Bay League football game Friday, a four-week time frame became a greater opponent to the Panthers than visiting Santa Monica.
It will take Peninsula, which eventually defeated Santa Monica, 58-10, that long to capture its first Southern Section Division II title.
"We have to go out and maintain the same intensity," Coach Gary Kimbrell said about heading into next week's playoffs. "It's going to be a lot tougher, and we have to go out and keep the same thing going."
Last year, Peninsula was upset by Newhall Hart, 37-3, in the semifinals.
Peninsula, The Times' No. 6-ranked team, completed its second consecutive undefeated regular season at 10-0 and successfully defended its league title with a 7-0 record. Santa Monica, which had a shot at the league title, dropped to 7-3 and 5-2, but is also assured a playoff berth.
Pairings will be announced Sunday and Peninsula is expected to be the division's top-seeded team.
It took Peninsula only five offensive plays in the first quarter to build a 22-0 lead with running back Marty Cheatham scoring on touchdown runs of 36 and nine yards. Quarterback Garrett Smith scored the third touchdown on a 69-yard option run.
"Our offensive line has been blowing everybody off the line all season long and doing a great job for us," said Smith, who scored again later on a one-yard run and also threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Harrington. "I feel they're the best line in the South Bay."
Before the first half ended, Santa Monica closed the margin to 22-10. That was as close as it would get.
"I told the team [in the locker room] that the first drive of the third quarter was going to be a big key to how the game would go," Kimbrell said. "I told them it was that important."
Cabot Denny returned the second-half kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown for Peninsula. The Panthers scored on all five of its second-half possessions.
"We let down in the second quarter," Smith said. "Coach said that we have to play 48 minutes of football, so we came out with more emotion in the second half."