Early in the season, Los Angeles Loyola had many doubters, but a late-season surge has no doubt turned them into believers.
And it's turned the Cubs into the Serra League champions.
Riding a defense that came into question early during league play, Loyola defeated host La Puente Bishop Amat, 28-5, Friday night and clinched a share of the league title.
Loyola (7-3, 4-1 in league) won its final four games after a 3-3 start and will enter the playoffs as the No. 1 team from the Serra League based on a head-to-head victory over co-champion Santa Ana Mater Dei.
"It's always sweet," said Steve Grady, who has guided Loyola to 15 league titles since taking over as coach in 1976. "My guess is, a lot of people wrote us off when we started 3-3, but now we're off to start a new season."
Bishop Amat had only 149 yards and eight first downs against a Loyola defense that was scrutinized after allowing 35, 28 and 24 points in its first three Serra League games.
James Abbott had a sack and one of two Loyola interceptions. He returned his interception 30 yards for a touchdown that gave the Cubs a 28-3 lead with 7 minutes 37 seconds left in the third quarter.
Quarterback Scott Deke provided most of the offense by completing nine of 13 passes for 117 yards and touchdowns of six and 18 yards. George Hypolite had 81 yards in 10 carries and Trason Bragg added 49 yards and a touchdown in 12 carries.
Bishop Amat (6-4, 2-3) falls into a tie for third place with Santa Margarita and Bellflower St. John Bosco.
-- Peter Yoon
Mater Dei 21, Santa Margarita 7 -- The Monarchs' first league title since 1999 came on the strength of a running game that revolved around quarterback Jason Forcier.
Forcier rushed 16 times for 106 yards and scored the first touchdown of the game on an eight-yard run. The Monarchs rushed 43 times for 218 yards in winning for the sixth time in seven games.
Mater Dei (6-4, 4-1), ranked No. 22, got a second-quarter touchdown on a five-yard run by Rick Russell capping a nine-play, 71-yard drive in which the Monarchs never faced a third-down situation. The Monarchs made the score 21-0 in the third quarter on a one-yard run by Justin Guzman, who had 14 carries for 76 yards.
Mater Dei intercepted Michael Angelo's first two passes and scrambled Santa Margarita's offense to the point where the Eagles could do little more than snap the ball to Angelo and have him run. The Monarch defense held No. 20 Santa Margarita (7-3, 2-3) to 197 yards, 78 of which came after Mater Dei led 21-0.
Angelo ran 23 times for 47 yards and completed 12 of 18 passes for 129 yards -- 92 of which came in the second half.
-- Martin Henderson