On a rain-drenched field at the Home Depot Center, Encino Crespi and Long Beach Poly engaged in an all-out defensive struggle, each team daring the other to find a way to succeed.
Poly junior running back Melvin Richardson took on the challenge and delivered, scoring on touchdown runs of 69 and four yards to help the Jackrabbits defeat Crespi, 13-3, to win the Pac-5 Division title Saturday night.
It was the 17th Southern Section championship for Poly (13-1), which last week also used its defensive superiority to defeat Orange Lutheran, 2-0, in the semifinals. Richardson finished with 157 yards in 17 carries. Senior defensive back Vaughn Telemaque had three interceptions.
Now it’s up to the 10 section commissioners from the California Interscholastic Federation, high school’s governing body, to decide at a gathering today in Carson which six schools will be selected for the CIF state championship bowl games next Saturday at the Home Depot Center.
The toughest decision involves trying to choose the Division I representative from Southern California. It’s a likely choice between City Section champion Lake Balboa Birmingham and Inland Division winner Corona Centennial.
Birmingham defeated Poly during the regular season, so the Patriots are hoping a victory over the newly crowned Pac-5 champion sways the voters. But Centennial owns a win over Crespi, a team Birmingham lost to.
The announcement will come at 3 p.m. on FSN West.
The game started badly for Crespi (11-3). On Poly’s second play from scrimmage, Richardson ran 69 yards for a touchdown. On Crespi’s first two possessions, passes by Bryan Bennett were intercepted by Telemaque.
Then the Celts got a break. Poly had first and goal from the four when Richardson fumbled and E.J. Woods recovered. The first quarter ended with Poly ahead only 6-0.
Crespi finally broke through at the end of the second quarter on a 32-yard field goal by Christian Nastos. Both teams went into the locker room looking to regroup. Then it started to rain, adding to the uncertainty of what the second half might bring.
A bad snap on a punt gave Crespi the ball on Poly’s 34 midway through the third quarter. But Nastos’ 33-yard field-goal attempt was blocked.
That opened the way for Poly to drive 80 yards in nine plays, with Richardson scoring the decisive touchdown with 9:22 left.
Attendance for the tripleheader was 14,898. In earlier games, quarterback Matt Scott passed for 159 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for two scores in Centennial’s 42-7 win over Corona Santiago in the Inland Division final. In the Northern Division final, quarterback Casey Serna rushed for 140 yards and scored two touchdowns in St. Bonaventure’s 42-28 win over Newhall Hart.
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Southland football champions
*--* Division Champion (Record) Championship game result CITY SECTION Championship Lake Balboa Birmingham d. Carson, 41-6 (13-1) Invitational L.A. Garfield (11-3) d. L.A. University, 28-23 SOUTHERN SECTION Pac-5 Long Beach Poly (13-1) d. Encino Crespi, 13-3 Inland Corona Centennial (13-1) d. Corona Santiago, 42-7 Western Santa Fe Springs St. d. Palmdale, 42-14 Paul (10-4) Northern Ventura St. Bonaventure d. Newhall Hart, 42-28 (13-1) Central Ontario Colony (12-2) d. Moreno Valley Canyon Springs, 41-14 Southwest Placentia El Dorado d. Mission Viejo Trabuco (13-1) Hills, 13-12 Southeast La Habra (13-0) d. Fullerton, 16-6 Eastern Riverside North (13-1) d. Palm Desert, 67-35 Southern Cypress (10-3) d. Garden Grove Pacifica, 36-30 Northwest Westlake Village Oaks d. Ojai Nordhoff, 52-7 Christian (11-3) Mid-Valley Oxnard Santa Clara d. Santa Barbara Bishop (11-1-1) Diego, 20-14 East Valley Perris Citrus Hill (14-0) d. San Jacinto, 28-6 Northeast S.J. Capistrano St. d. L.A. Brentwood, 37-6 Margaret’s (14-0) *--*