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Title Is a Rush for Dominguez

It was an opening drive for the history books. Every play was a run. Every play resulted in a physical beating by a superior offensive line. Every play was a statement that Compton Dominguez came to dominate.

The Dons started Saturday night’s Southern Section Division III championship football game at the Home Depot Center with 19 consecutive runs covering 10 minutes and five seconds. Brandon Johnson finally reached the end zone on a two-yard plunge.

Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, owning a 35-game winning streak, the longest unbeaten streak in Southern California, was feeling helpless.

“They’re coming at you every play,” defensive back Rodney Glass said.

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From that opening drive until the final second had elapsed, Dominguez never stopped punishing the Knights. They not only won the game, 41-14, but earned the right to be considered perhaps the best team in the state.

“It’s no longer a basketball school,” Dominguez receiver Richard Sherman proclaimed.

Yes, NBA players Tyson Chandler and Tayshaun Prince can crow about being alumni of a football powerhouse.

“We couldn’t stop the run,” Notre Dame Coach Kevin Rooney said.

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Notre Dame’s defense knew what was coming almost every play. The Dons, running a wing-T offense that featured simple handoffs and pitches, methodically moved the ball. Johnson, a junior running back, rushed for 245 yards in 29 carries and scored four touchdowns.

“No back on our team usually carries the ball more than eight or nine times a game,” Coach Willie Donerson said. “Brandon just got hot and we kept feeding him.”

There was one brief moment that Notre Dame (13-1) might have thought it was in the game. It happened immediately after Dominguez’s first scoring drive.

Quarterback Garrett Green ran 75 yards for a touchdown on the Knights’ first offensive play, tying the score, 7-7.

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But it ended up as Notre Dame’s lone offensive play in the first quarter. By the end of the first half, Dominguez led, 28-7, and had run 39 plays to Notre Dame’s nine.

By game’s end, the usually mistake-free Knights committed five turnovers. And it was the Dons who displayed the most discipline.

“We had to dominate,” UCLA-bound lineman Sonny Tevaga said. “That’s what we did all year and what we did tonight.”

Dominguez (13-1), in winning its first section title since 1996, avenged a 38-21 loss to Notre Dame in last year’s final.

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That disappointment served as inspiration to the many juniors on the team. They thought about it every time they were in the weight room or running conditioning drills.

“This is what we worked for,” defensive back Hilton Dawson said.

Notre Dame players were subdued afterward. They were denied a fourth consecutive Division III championship and lost for the first time since the 2003 season. The game was the final one for Green, who was 35-2 as a starting quarterback.

“Football is a team game, but the quarterback, and Garrett in particular, is a big reason why we’ve been so successful,” Rooney said.

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On this night, there was nothing Green or any of his teammates could have done to prevent Dominguez from rising to the top in Division III.

“We’re No. 1 in the state,” Dawson said.

That will be left for the people of Cal-Hi Sports magazine to decide. The Dons’ only loss this season was their second game, in triple overtime to eventual City Section champion Los Angeles Crenshaw.

This much is clear: The Dons made their coach and community proud.

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“They played their hearts out,” Donerson said.

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Eric Sondheimer can be reached at eric.sondheimer@latimes.com.


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