Corona Centennial High’s no-huddle, hurry-up offense took its sweet time in the final minute Friday night.
The Huskies lingered in the backfield after plays. They milled about in the huddle prior to the snap. They savored every moment.
Things then turned bizarre when Centennial quarterback Taylor Martinez sprinted into his own end zone to take a safety with 7.8 seconds remaining.
Concord De La Salle tried a series of laterals on the ensuing kickoff and reached Centennial territory before getting tackled to secure the Huskies’ 21-16 victory in the CIF state Division I championship bowl game at the Home Depot Center.
By avenging last year’s bowl loss to the Spartans, Centennial (15-0) can make a case to be considered the unofficial California champion, though the winner of tonight’s open-division bowl game between Long Beach Poly and Sacramento Grant would surely disagree.
“I kind of look at it like there’s really four teams competing for that state crown, because it could come out of any of those teams,” Centennial Coach Matt Logan said this week.
The Huskies took a 21-14 lead when running back Arthur Burns spun into the end zone for a two-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter, capping a drive in which Centennial appeared to catch a big break when an apparent fumble by receiver Ricky Marvray was ruled an incomplete pass.
De La Salle remained within striking distance when Noah Perio blocked a 37-yard field-goal attempt by Trevor Romaine, giving the Spartans (12-2) the ball at their own 30-yard line with 3:18 remaining in the game.
De La Salle eventually reached the Centennial 42 before quarterback Blake Wayne’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete.
Wayne had pulled the Spartans into a 14-14 tie in the third quarter on a one-yard plunge.
Centennial, which never led and trailed by as many as 24 points during last year’s 37-31 loss to De La Salle, had to play catch-up again in the early going Friday.
The Huskies helped the Spartans score first thanks to a pair of mistakes. After a bad punt snap gave De La Salle the ball on the Centennial 18-yard line, it appeared the Huskies had held the Spartans and would force a field-goal attempt.
But De La Salle drew Centennial offsides on fourth down, giving the Spartans a first down at the five-yard line. Two plays later, Terron Ward scored on a one-yard run to give the Spartans a 7-0 lead.
Things further deteriorated for the Huskies when Burns fumbled inside De La Salle’s five-yard line, but Centennial linebacker Vontaze Burfict intercepted a pass by Wayne shortly thereafter at the Spartans’ 17-yard line. Burns then scored on a four-yard run to tie the score.
Martinez nudged Centennial ahead, 14-7, on his four-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter. The Huskies’ 50-yard drive was keyed by an acrobatic catch by Geshun Harris that went for a 33-yard gain.
Martinez completed 15 of 21 passes for 243 yards and Harris caught nine passes for 127 yards.
De La Salle Coach Bob Ladouceur fell short in his bid to become the all-time winningest coach in California. He remains tied with former longtime Santa Fe Springs St. Paul coach Marijon Ancich, who retired with 344 victories.
State bowl games
at Home Depot Center
all games on Prime Ticket
Small Schools St. Margaret’s 59,
Hamilton City Hamilton 7
Division I Corona Centennial 21,
Concord De La Salle 16
Division III :: noon
St. Bonaventure (13-1) vs. Santa Rosa Cardinal Newman (13-0)
Division II :: 4 p.m.
San Diego Cathedral (13-0)
vs. Stockton St. Mary’s (12-2)
Open Division :: 8 p.m.
Long Beach Poly (14-0)
vs. Sacramento Grant (13-0)