Showing resiliency after a devastating defeat last week, Taft High opened the City Championship playoffs with a 43-8 rout of Crenshaw on Thursday night at Taft.
Quarterback Brandon Hance passed for two touchdowns and backup tailback Damion Ramsey ran for two others as the Toreadors (9-2) began their bid for a third consecutive trip to the City final at the Coliseum.
“I think we did some good things,” Coach Troy Starr said. “Our kids reacted to adversity. I’m proud of them. That was a tough loss last week. There’s a lot of football left in us.”
Quickly forgetting about their overtime defeat to Granada Hills, the Toreadors opened a 21-0 halftime lead. Hance threw touchdown passes of 37 yards to K.C. Bounds and 23 yards to Lawrence Wallace.
Sophomore cornerback Lee Marks had two interceptions to lead a defense that frustrated Crenshaw quarterback Keenan Carter, who failed to complete a pass in 11 first-half attempts and finished three of 19 for 37 yards.
The only down moment for Taft occurred late in the second quarter when tailback Marquis Brignac had to leave the game with a sprained ankle. Ramsey filled in and finished with 62 yards in nine carries.
“Don’t make any plans for Dec. 11,” Starr confidently advised his players afterward.
That’s the date of the City final at the Coliseum.
Taft, seeded No. 7, will play at second-seeded Venice (11-0) on Wednesday in a quarterfinal game.
Considering how badly the Toreadors felt just a week ago, their turnaround was impressive.
“It was heartbreaking, it really was,” Hance said of a 17-10 loss to Granada Hills. “But the second season has started.”
No one is more important to Taft’s chances than Hance, a junior who entered the season without having played a down of varsity football.
Hance has gradually become an effective passer and offensive leader. Against Crenshaw (6-5), he completed 15 of 22 passes for 140 yards.
“We want him to progress so when we get to December, he’s red hot,” linebacker Dionte Hall said. “He’s no longer a rookie. He has to step it up and he has.”
Said Hance: “I’m starting to feel comfortable. I’m not so mechanical.”
Another player on the rise is Marks. He was on the junior varsity team when Taft beat Crenshaw, 38-22, in the second game of the season. Marks was soon promoted and has become a valuable defensive player.
“He’s a great 10th grader,” defensive coordinator Frank Grossman said.
Taft was strengthened by the return of receiver Ronald Andrews, who was kicked off the team three weeks ago. He caught two passes for 76 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown.