Upsets take place when players follow their coach's instructions to perfection, and that's how 13th-seeded Harbor City Narbonne defeated defending champion Lake Balboa Birmingham, 27-20, Thursday night in a first-round game of the City Championship playoffs.
The Gauchos (6-5) had only one turnover, passed only four times and used their size and athleticism to control the clock with a devastating rushing attack. "We knew we could run," Coach Manuel Douglas said.
Pat Smith led the way with 164 yards and three touchdowns in 18 carries. Narbonne gained 281 yards rushing while not completing a pass.
Lamont Long broke a 20-20 tie with an eight-yard touchdown run with 2:44 left. Fourth-seeded Birmingham (7-4) had the ball on Narbonne's 18-yard line with four seconds left, but sophomore linebacker Major Culbert stripped the ball from quarterback Andrew Miramontes as time expired.
Miramontes struggled throughout. He had two passes intercepted, lost two fumbles and completed nine of 22 attempts for 181 yards.
After a 13-13 halftime tie, Narbonne took the opening possession of the third quarter and drove 67 yards in six plays, with Smith scoring on a 16-yard run. Brian Baylor, who finished with 103 yards rushing, tied the score with a three-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Narbonne received critical interceptions from Kevin Garrett and Jeff Brown. Garrett returned his 20 yards to the Birmingham five to set up one touchdown and Brown stopped a fourth-quarter drive.
L.A. Crenshaw 19, San Pedro 3 -- Might was right for the host Cougars as they wore down the Pirates with a dominating defense and punishing running game.
Crenshaw (9-2) will face top-seeded Venice in the quarterfinals after limiting San Pedro to only 14 yards in the second half and sacking quarterback Dustin Garneau five times.
"For us to win championships, we need to play great defense," linebacker Solomon Elimimian said. "We've very aggressive and we believe in our defense first. If our defense does the job, we win games."
The effort allowed Crenshaw to rally from a three-point halftime deficit. The eighth-seeded Cougars slowly began to impose their will on a Pirate team that had won four in a row.
Chinonso Anyanwu recovered a fumble by Grant Thorne at the San Pedro 35 in the third quarter. Crenshaw cashed it in on Rickie Collins' one-yard run for a 6-3 lead.
Aaron Huntley, who had 93 yards in 18 carries, scored on runs of two and five yards in the fourth quarter to put the game away. Quarterback Anthony Moore shook off two first-half interceptions to have key gains of 20 and 13 yards on each scoring drive.
"I think our kids just needed to get back to playing our style of football," Crenshaw Coach Robert Garrett said. "Our intent is to play football. We take what you give us."
San Pedro (8-3) managed 90 yards of offense, including minus-13 on the ground with the five sacks.
Venice 63, Gardena 14 -- The Gondoliers (11-0) found little resistance against the Panthers (7-4), who gave up three touchdowns and a safety when punting.
James Lewis returned punts 50 and 70 yards for touchdowns and James Armstrong returned a blocked punt 17 yards for another score.
Beau Davis completed seven of 15 passes for 165 yards and touchdowns to three receivers. Lewis also passed for a 45-yard touchdown to Gerold Rodriguez, on a double-pass play. Byron Ellis gained 126 yards in 12 rushes.