There was a traffic jam of epic proportions Friday night in Westlake Village, and it involved trying to walk around Oaks Christian’s sideline, where everyone and his brother seemed to have a pass allowing them to be up close when history was made.
With Joe Montana, Norm Chow, Marc Tyler and a cast of hundreds looking on, the Lions became the first high school team to win six consecutive Southern Section football championships with a 63-28 thumping of Gardena Serra in the Northwest Division final.
Serra (13-1) made the Lions (14-0) sweat for about 22 minutes. The score was tied, 14-14, with just under two minutes left in the second quarter.
Then running back Malcolm Jones and his friends responded with six consecutive touchdowns in a breathless, overwhelming performance.
Jones finished the night by rushing for 210 yards in 19 carries, catching four passes for 94 yards and scoring four touchdowns.
“They don’t come much better than him,” Coach Bill Redell said.
Nick Montana, in his best performance of the season, completed 14 of 21 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns. He connected on his last eight attempts.
“We just didn’t tackle,” Serra Coach Scott Altenberg said. “It’s frustrating. They’re a great team. I would have liked to have given a better show.”
The one Serra player who didn’t let anybody down was junior receiver Robert Woods, who scored three touchdowns on runs of four and 29 yards and on a 79-yard kickoff return.
It was only last month that Jones, a junior, was sidelined for four weeks with a separated shoulder. But he left little doubt Friday he was at full strength.
Whether catching passes out of the backfield or breaking loose on handoffs, Jones was the difference in allowing the Lions to break away from Serra at the end of the first half.
Jones’ touchdown runs of two and 65 yards in the final 1:45 of the first half gave the Lions a 28-14 halftime lead.
Tyler, a freshman running back at USC who did his share of scoring touchdowns for the Lions, admired Jones’ performance.
“I think my moves are more fluid, but he’s a beast,” Tyler said.
Now that Oaks Christian has finished with a 14-0 record, its season is over. Some will cross their fingers and hope that the Lions will get an invitation to the CIF state Division III bowl game when pairings are announced Sunday, but there’s no chance of that happening.
Oaks Christian waited until the last game to finally play a top 25 opponent. It shows that more important than winning every game is the competition.
St. Bonaventure (13-1) lost only one game, but that loss was to Pac-5 Division finalist Long Beach Poly, 12-7. Strength of schedule matters, and that’s why the Seraphs will get the invite.
Oaks Christian must stop making excuses about not finding top teams to play. Otherwise, despite returning one of their best teams next season, the Lions will find themselves again without a bowl invitation. Here are seven teams certain to be top 10 teams in 2009: Anaheim Servite, Orange Lutheran, Lakewood, Los Angeles Crenshaw, Long Beach Poly, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame and St. Bonaventure.
Oaks Christian needs to give them a call. I’ve already spoken with Servite Coach Troy Thomas. His school has an opening for a zero-week game, as does Oaks Christian. He’s willing to play the Lions. Redell needs to make the deal.
With Jones, Montana, linebacker Zac Stout, 6-foot-5, 275-pound Erik Kohler, 6-4, 270-pound Cassius Marsh and lots of others coming back, Oaks Christian should be outstanding.
But top competition is the only way to convince the skeptics how good the Lions truly are.