Robert Woods leads Gardena Serra to Division III state football title


On his biggest stage yet, Gardena Serra receiver Robert Woods showed on Saturday afternoon in the CIF state championship Division III bowl game why so many people believe he’s destined for greatness in football.

Juking and sprinting his way to eight catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns, Woods made his final high school game another to add to his bulging scrapbook in helping Serra defeat Kentfield Marin Catholic, 24-20, at the Home Depot Center in Carson.

“He can do whatever he wants whenever he wants,” said quarterback Conner Preston, who completed 14 of 25 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns.


Woods, who has committed to USC, also had a 59-yard punt return for a touchdown, but it was wiped out by a penalty. And a 20-yard TD catch was prevented only because he fumbled just before reaching the end zone in the fourth quarter.

It capped off a 15-0 season for the Cavaliers, who survived a gutsy performance from Marin Catholic (13-2), which lost its starting quarterback, Nate Kristoff, to a hip injury at the end of the first quarter but still was within striking distance of victory until turning over the ball on downs with 2:43 left.

“They did what they wanted to do,” Serra Coach Scott Altenberg said. “They held the ball. They made it difficult for us. We uncharacteristically turned it over.”

The game started with Preston firing a short pass to Woods, who turned it into a 67-yard touchdown play. Tyler Scott tied it for the Wildcats when he caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Kristoff.

Paul Richardson’s 11-yard touchdown catch put the Cavaliers on top, 14-7, in the second quarter. Then backup quarterback Chris Tewhill took advantage of a blown coverage and passed 82 yards to Scott for a touchdown to tie the score, 14-14.

A 34-yard field goal by Francisco Olloqui with 4:17 left in the third quarter gave Serra a 17-14 lead. But Tewhill picked up a fumble and ran 52 yards for a touchdown, and Marin Catholic led, 20-17.


Serra finally went ahead for good with a 69-yard, five-play scoring drive, with Woods making a 30-yard TD reception.

Marin Catholic’s double-wing offense caused Serra problems. Twice the Wildcats had wide-open receivers down the middle of the field after sending players in motion, one play resulting in a touchdown and the other in a dropped pass that could have been a touchdown.

“We got confused,” defensive back Marqise Lee said.

But not a third time. It was Lee’s interception on the same isolation play down the middle with 7:35 left that might have been the biggest defensive play of the game.

“He was such a special player and important player to our program,” Altenberg said of Woods. “I’m really going to miss him.”