Twelve hours after his team won the City Section title with one of the most dramatic finishes in Southland high school football history, Dorsey Coach Paul Knox still was in a mild state of disbelief.
Dorsey defeated Woodland Hills Taft, 19-14, on Friday night at the Coliseum when the Dons blocked a punt with seven seconds left and recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown as time expired.
“Through the years, we have won games on the last play and we’ve lost a couple on the last play,” Knox said Saturday, “but I’ve never seen anything like that where you really have to pull something out like a blocked punt, and then have every bounce go your way to complete the play and win a championship.”
Dorsey, which won its third City title and first since 1995, had blocked several punts and field-goal and extra-point attempts this season.
In a 24-20 loss to Crenshaw on Oct. 12--the Dons’ last defeat before finishing the season with eight consecutive victories--defensive end Tremaine Towns blocked a punt deep in Crenshaw territory, picked up the ball at the one-yard line and ran into the end zone for a touchdown.
So despite trailing, 14-13, with no timeouts remaining, Knox said the Dorsey sideline was relatively calm when Taft set up in punt formation on the fateful fourth down at the Taft 32.
“We were too busy to think about losing,” Knox said. “During the plays leading up to the punt, my offensive coaches were going over what could possibly happen if we got the ball back and how we were going to prepare for each situation.”
Taft had not had a punt blocked all season. After the game, Toreador Coach Troy Starr called the decision to punt, rather than having a player take the snap and scramble, “a no-brainer.”
Knox agreed. “Seven seconds is a lot of time to be running around with the ball,” he said.
Dorsey’s strategy was to go for the blocked kick. If the Dons failed, the return men were instructed to call for a fair catch so the Dons could try a last-second pass.
If Taft faked the kick and ran, the Dons needed a tackle in the end zone before time expired.
Taft, however, did not attempt a fake. Punter Issac Garden, who had given the Toreadors their one-point lead with his extra-point kick with 6:30 left, took the snap as Dorsey players crashed through the line.
Safety Derron Ware and linebacker Jesus Jimenez, who had missed a 31-yard field-goal attempt with 2:44 left, led the Dorsey charge. Jimenez blocked the kick, setting off a mad scramble for the ball.
Said Knox: “It looked like one of our guys was going to get the ball around the 20, but he got hit as he was trying to pick it up. Once the ball got into the end zone, I saw a Taft guy dive and then a couple of our guys did the same.”
Dorsey defensive back Henry Madge came up with the ball, setting off a wild celebration for Dorsey as stunned Taft players and coaches looked on.
“All I remember is people coming out of the stands and the kids all hugging and jumping up and down,” Knox said. “Right after the game, we talked about how hard we had worked since the summer. All that hard work came to fruition right there on the last play of the game.”
Staff writer Eric Sondheimer contributed to this report.