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SOUTHERN SECTION FINALS
Saturday, Dec. 13
Hart 25, Mission Viejo 7
Sherman Oaks Notre Dame 31, Palmdale 7
K.C. Croal had a feeling it would happen, so when the opportunity arose, the Sherman Oaks Notre Dame linebacker was prepared.
Near the end of the first half of the Southern Section Division III championship game Saturday at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Palmdale lined up for a 51-yard field goal that would have tied the score.
Instead, Croal burst through the middle of the line, laid out his body and blocked the kick. Teammate Jimmy Welker scooped up the ball and raced 45 yards for a touchdown, giving the Knights a 10-point halftime lead and all the momentum they would need to win.
"We called out that it was going to happen," Croal said. "We scouted out on their films and knew we could get in on their field goal team. It was a huge momentum changer."
Notre Dame led, 10-7, at the time, but took a 17-7 halftime lead. The Knights broke Palmdale's spirit by forcing a punt on the opening possession of the second half then driving 97-yards on a 15-play, 7 minute, 40 second drive. Every play was a run, including the 34-yard touchdown run by quarterback Garrett Green that finished it.
"We were a little down after the blocked field goal," Palmdale Coach Jeff Williams said. "That was a very crucial play. We're looking at going to halftime tied and then all of a sudden it's 17-7. Something like that takes all the wind out of your sails."
Notre Dame's defense took over from there. Palmdale (12-2) gained 175 total yards, only 83 in the second half.
On offense, Notre Dame controlled the clock by rushing on every play of the second half. Running back Brandon Clayton led the way with 121 yards and two touchdowns in 17 carries.
Cary Harris added 60 yards in 15 carries for Notre Dame, which had 248 total yards. Clayton ended the season with 1,122 yards and Harris had 60.
"It's not a one man show here," Clayton said. "We knew if we played like a team we could get the job done."
It is the second consecutive title and third overall for Notre Dame (12-2), which many pegged as a rebuilding team because it had a sophomore starting at quarterback and three juniors starting on the offensive line. An early-season loss to Westlake Village Westlake and a Mission League loss to Sana Fe Springs St. Paul seemed to validate the assumption, but Notre Dame used that as motivation.
"There is satisfaction because we had adversity this season," Notre Dame Coach Kevin Rooney said. "We were second in our league and to come back and win a title after that is pretty remarkable."
Los Altos 21, Orange Lutheran 17
Fontana Kaiser 41, Ridgecrest Burroughs 31
His options limited at running back with Cameron Lonzo sidelined because of a broken ankle, Fontana Kaiser Coach Dick Bruich turned to hulking defensive lineman Bernard Afutiti.
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior, typically reserved for short-yardage situations, responded with 93 yard rushing and four touchdowns in 16 carries Saturday at Fontana High to lead Kaiser to its second consecutive Southern Section Division VIII football title with a 41-31 victory over Ridgecrest Burroughs.
"I thought they were going to get me the ball in desperate situations," said Afutiti, who had five touchdowns entering the game. "But I guess Coach [Bruich] really believed in me."
Afutiti gave the top-seeded Cats (13-1) a dependable alternative to tailback Rayvonne Gooden, who gained 282 yards and scored two touchdowns in 42 carries. Kaiser rushed for 375 yards and out-gained the Burros, 381-320 yards.
Afutiti scored three touchdowns in the second half as Kaiser rallied from a 24-21 halftime deficit. He rushed for touchdowns of eight and nine yards in the third quarter to put the Cats ahead, 34-24.
The second-seeded Burros (12-2) made it 34-31 late in the third quarter when quarterback Karsten Sween connected with Will Johnson for a 27-yard touchdown. But Afutiti put the game out of reach with a five-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter.
Anthony Celestine made a one-handed catch on a 70-yard scoring pass play, completed a 63-yard pass for a touchdown on a fake punt and recovered an on-side kick for Burroughs. Sween completed 23 of 38 passes for 321 yards and three touchdowns. Celestine had 10 catches for 180 yards.
Oaks Christian 21, Oak Park 16
Marc Tyler rushed for 83 yards and two touchdowns in 12 carries to help Oaks Christian to victory in the Division XI title game at Simi Valley Royal.
Tyler, the son of former UCLA and NFL running back Wendell Tyler, scored on runs of three and six yards as Oaks Christian (12-2) won its first section title in its third season playing at the varsity level.
Tyler's second touchdown gave the Lions a 21-10 lead with 8:46 left in the third quarter, but Oaks Christian missed a golden opportunity to extend its advantage to 28-10 when Tyler fumbled the ball away as he was a foot short of reaching the Oak Park end zone two minutes later.
Oak Park (12-2), which defeated Oaks Christian, 27-24, in its final Tri-Valley League game of the regular season, narrowed its deficit to 21-16 when Mike Christiansen scored a two-yard run with 6:05 left in the fourth quarter.
Oak Park later had a first down on the Oaks Christian 15-yard line after recovering a fumble by Aaron Ware, but Eagle running back Anthony Monteleone fumbled the ball and it was recovered by the Lions' Marshall Jones at the two-yard line with 2:55 remaining.
Quarterback Nolan McNair completed 13 of 27 passes for 191 yards for Oak Park, which was playing in its first section title game.
Sun Valley Village Christian 42, Los Angeles Baptist 20
Jason Christensen ran 30 times for 280 yards and five touchdowns and the host Crusaders capitalized on two-second half turnovers and outscored the Knights, 22-0, over the last 15:29 en route to their ninth consecutive victory and first Division XII championship at Granada Hills Kennedy High.
Christensen scored on runs of 30 and five yards and Andrew Bethany caught a 43-yard touchdown pass from Jake Hagedorn as Village Christian (12-2) built a 20-13 halftime lead.
Alex Westmore completed 12 of 25 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns, including a 30-yarder to Jess Lima midway through the third quarter to tie the score, 20-20, but the Knights (9-5) never threatened again.
Christensen scored on runs of 13, 16 and 18 yards in the second half, the latter giving the Crusaders a 39-20 lead with 9:50 left to play.
Matt Barbani ran 19 times for 91 yards and a touchdown, but the Knights were out-gained, 325-69, on the ground and committed three turnovers.
Flintridge Prep 17, Pasadena Poly 10
Friday, Dec. 12
Loyola 21, Long Beach Poly 17
Los Angeles Loyola High quarterback Scott Deke, who had accounted for all of the Cubs' scoring with three touchdown passes, also made a big play on defense with a late interception as Loyola held on to upset Long Beach Poly.
Deke intercepted a pass from Jackrabbit quarterback Cruz Parsons with 2 minutes 14 seconds remaining before 9,734 at the Home Depot Center in Carson as Loyola won its fifth section title and first since 1990.
"I was just in the right place at the time," said Deke, who has committed to Virginia. "To beat our nemesis in the last game of the season was sweet."
Poly had one final possession, but Cub defensive end Chris Jauregui sacked Parsons at the Poly 34-yard line with time winding down and the top-seeded Jackrabbits could not get off another play.
Second-seeded Loyola (11-3) scored the eventual winning points with 4:55 left when Deke rolled out and found Chris Johnson cutting toward the pylon just inside the end zone for a six-yard touchdown. Deke completed only nine of 23 passes for 112 yards but connected for touchdowns of 16, 26 and six yards.
Poly (11-3) looked as if it might blow the game open midway through the second quarter when it took a 14-0 lead after two touchdown passes from Parsons to Desean Jackson.
But the Cubs cut their deficit in half late in the second quarter when Benjamin Bernstein took a pass from Deke at the Poly five and raced into the end zone for a 16-yard scoring play.
Loyola appeared to seize the momentum early in the third quarter when Deke, on the run after being chased out of the pocket, connected with Matt Appenfelder in the corner of the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown pass play that tied the score, at 14-14.
The Cubs held Poly on its next possession, but the Jackrabbits' punt went off the foot of Loyola's Casey Frost and was recovered by Poly linebacker Aaron Young at the Cub 37. Jackrabbit kicker Michael Skvor made a 32-yard field goal seven plays later to put Poly ahead, 17-14.
Parsons, who completed 16 of 25 passes for 198 yards, connected with Jackson on touchdown passes of seven and 39 yards. He also had two passes intercepted. Poly was seeking its fourth title in five years and 16th in 19 title-game appearances.
The Jackrabbits appeared in good shape after building their two-touchdown lead. Parsons connected with Jackson late in the first quarter at the Loyola one-yard line, and Jackson spun into the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown. Parson then hit Jackson for a 39-yard touchdown pass with 7:13 left in the second quarter.
Loyola's victory avenged a 16-13 overtime loss to Poly in the 2000 title game.
Westlake 28, St. Bonaventure 6
Playing like men among boys, Jimmy Miller and Michael Stuart made their final high school game a memorable one, dominating on defense to help Westlake Village Westlake High complete its first unbeaten football season in school history.
Westlake (14-0) put together a powerful defensive performance featuring the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Miller rushing from one end and the 6-3, 230-pound Stuart charging from the other in the victory over Ventura St. Bonaventure before more than 6,000 at Moorpark College.
"I told them before the game if they chose to take over the game they could and they did," defensive coordinator Mike Leibin said.
Miller and Stuart, who are both headed to USC, combined for five sacks. Westlake linemen deflected or tipped six passes, making it difficult for St. Bonaventure quarterback Brian Stevens, who completed 19 of 37 passes for 199 yards.
"It was the last game I was ever going to play with these guys, and we went all out," Stuart said.
On offense, Miller, the tight end, caught a 49-yard touchdown pass. Stuart, a receiver, caught a nine-yard touchdown pass and on one play had nine of 11 St. Bonaventure players on his back trying to bring him down after a reception. He refused to go down, with only the referee's whistle stopping the play.
St. Bonaventure (13-1), which defeated Westlake, 40-14, in last year's final, received 111 yards rushing from Matt Lee. But the constant rush from Miller and Stuart limited the Seraphs to a pair of first-half field goals by Chris Diaz, from 36 and 44 yards.
"On both sides of the ball, [Miller and Stuart] played incredible," St. Bonaventure Coach Jon Mack said.
Westlake quarterback Rudy Carpenter was efficient and effective, completing 15 of 21 passes for 208 yards. Tahj Mowry rushed for 92 yards and scored two touchdowns. And Westlake won without running back Jeff Rapoport, who was averaging 10 yards per carry but didn't play because of a knee injury.
There was no stopping Miller and Stuart in the first half as Westlake raced to a 21-6 lead. Miller had two sacks, recorded another tackle for a loss and caught his touchdown pass. Stuart had a sack, tipped one pass that resulted in an interception by Greg Newman and caught his touchdown pass.
Riverside North 50, Norco 7
Midway through the second quarter of the Southern Section Division V championship football game, Riverside North quarterback Dion Morton was hit hard when Norco linebacker Steve Gearhart broke through the line for a sack.
It was the biggest defensive play of the game for Norco -- one of the few bright spots.
On the next play, Morton connected with his twin brother Damon in stride for an 85-yard scoring pass play in what almost seemed punishment for Norco's effort. It gave North a 36-point lead.
Scoring on the opening kickoff -- Damon Morton returned it 68 yards -- and seemingly moving the ball at will, North punctuated a 14-0 season with a victory over the Cougars at Lake Elsinore Temescal Canyon.
It is North's second title in three years. Last season, the Huskies lost a heartbreaker, 57-55, in triple overtime to Corona Centennial in the final.
This time, Damon Morton led the way. He scored three first-half touchdowns -- the first kickoff return of his career, the 85-yard play, and a 10-yard reception. He finished with five catches for 146 yards.
Dion Morton completed seven of eight passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns. Josh Barnett scored on runs of three, 73 and 24 yards and finished with 196 yards in 14 carries.
"We wanted to go out with a bang," Damon Morton said. "What's better than 50-7?"
North entered the game averaging 44.3 points and led, 43-0, at halftime. The defense also got into the act. Norco (12-2) fumbled on two of its first four plays, the second returned 84 yards by E.J. Brown.
Norco lost four of its seven fumbles. Although Norco running back Toby Gerhart had gained at least 285 yards in the previous six games, he finished with 179 yards in 29 carries against a North defense led by Devin McWilliams -- who had a sack and fumble recovery -- Adam Wright, Tomas Cornejo and Deylan Marrow.
Gerhart didn't crack 100 yards until early in the fourth quarter and by that time the Cougars trailed by 50 points. They scored with 1:04 left on a 52-yard pass from Kirk Philbrook to Kyle Legere.
South Hills 25, San Gabriel 6
In most of its games this season, West Covina South Hills had put away opponents by the start of the fourth quarter, so the Huskies were in an unfamiliar position as they led San Gabriel by only four points early in the fourth quarter Friday night.
It was a good thing for South Hills, then, that running back Marquies Windbush and receiver Bryan Payton found themselves in familiar territory.
Windbush, following Payton's blocking, ran 61 yards for a touchdown with slightly less than 10 minutes to play, and the Huskies pulled away for the victory at Covina District Stadium.
It was the second consecutive section title for South Hills (13-1) and its third in four years. The Huskies also won in 2000.
South Hills led, 10-6, entering the fourth quarter before Windbush and Payton made their way up the sideline in tandem. The ensuing two-point conversion gave South Hills an 18-6 lead.
"We're track partners, so we're used to running like that," said Payton, who flattened two would-be tacklers during the run. "He's always trying to catch me, so he just followed me like normal."
Windbush, a sophomore, added a three-yard touchdown with 4:57 left and finished with 159 yards and two touchdowns in 19 carries.
South Hills' defense, however, gets most of the credit for this victory. San Gabriel (11-3) gained only 209 yards against the Huskies, who allowed only the Matadors' six points in their four playoff games.
"This is a special defense," South Hills Coach Steve Bogan said. "We started to win the battle in the trenches, and that's what won it for us."
La Habra 34, Western 7
When it came time to rely on their passing games in the Division IX final at Cal State Fullerton, the Highlanders had Daniel Morales, who threw for 225 yards and four touchdowns. Western had nobody.
La Habra secured its second consecutive section title by shutting down the Pioneers' one-dimensional offense. Western (12-2), which finished the game with no passing yards and threw an interception, did not earn a first down until 26 seconds were left in the first half. By then, the Highlanders had built a 27-0 lead.
La Habra (11-3) averaged 10 yards per play in the first half, taking only five to move 60 yards in its first possession, which ended with a three-yard touchdown pass from Morales to receiver Nick Falcioni.
Jesse Quezada does not start at running back for La Habra, but the reserve did a skillful job spotting Anthony Torres. Quezada rushed for 90 yards in six carries in the first half, including a 28-yard touchdown run with 4:56 left in the first quarter that gave the Highlanders a 14-0 lead.
Western put itself in good field position on DeVonte Merrifield's 48-yard kickoff return to the La Habra 29, but Merrifield then missed a wide open Brian Williams on a halfback pass and the ball was intercepted by Eric Rivera, who returned it to the Western 35.
Morales connected with Trenton Sakioka on a 10-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the second quarter for a 21-0 lead. Morales' third touchdown pass of the half went to tight end Curtis Rihn with 5:41 left.
"Being here last year helped out tremendously," said Morales, who threw for 5,830 yards and 57 touchdowns in two seasons. "We came out this year and did exactly what we needed to do."
Lompoc 44, Morningside 6
The defending-champion Braves (12-2) sustained two early drives and then capitalized on back-to-back turnovers on kickoffs to take a commanding 30-0 lead early in the second quarter en route to their 11th consecutive victory and third section title in the Division X title game at Lompoc.
The Monarchs (12-2), playing in their first section final since 1991, outgained Lompoc, 275-266 yards, but didn't score until the fourth quarter when Heliki Fifita, who finished with 84 yards in 15 carries, ran in from two yards.
Armando Gutierrez finished with 72 yards in six carries and had a 20-yard scoring catch and David Gaspar had 59 yards in 10 carries for Lompoc.
Saturday, Dec. 13
Mission Viejo (13-0) vs. Hart (10-3), 7:30 p.m., Saturday, at Home Depot Center
Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (11-2) vs. Palmdale (12-1), noon, Saturday, at Home Depot Center
Los Altos (13-0) vs. Orange Lutheran (12-0), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Home Depot Center
Ridgecrest Burroughs (12-1) vs. Kaiser (12-1), 7 p.m., Saturday, at Fontana HS
Oaks Christian (11-2) vs. Oak Park (12-1), 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Royal HS
L.A. Baptist (9-4) vs. Village Christian (11-2), 7 p.m., Saturday, at Granada Hills Kennedy HS
Pasadena Poly (11-1) vs. Flintridge Prep (11-1), 7:30 p.m., Saturday, at South Pasadena HS