All season long, Los Angeles Garfield has relied on a punishing run game and stout defense, and the Bulldogs stuck with that formula to produce a 42-10 victory over Delano Kennedy in Saturday night’s Southern California Division 4-A regional game at Garfield High.
Now, the City Section Open Division finalists (13-1) find themselves one win away from their first state championship and will travel north for the 4-A final in two weeks.
Junior tailback Peter Garcia, who entered the game having rushed for 1,640 yards and 19 touchdowns, added to his gaudy numbers with three touchdowns in the first half and finished with 119 yards in 14 carries.
Garfield set the tone on its first possession, marching 65 yards in 14 plays while using over seven minutes. Garcia capped the drive with a four-yard run and the Bulldogs led 7-0. After Jesse Fierro booted a 42-yard field goal for Kennedy, the home team scored three straight touchdowns.
Garcia capped an 84-yard, seven-play drive with a 14-yard scoring run, then took a handoff 30 yards for another touchdown one play after Angel Hidalgo’s 25-yard interception return.
“The actual game plan was to come out and make sure we hit them hard and be physical,” Hidalgo said. “We knew they wanted to run the ball so we had to stop that first.”
With its running game established and the Thunderbirds on their heels, Garfield took to the air late in the first half and quarterback Jonathan Bautista tossed a 19-yard touchdown to Hidalgo. Joseph Serrano set up the score with a fumble recovery.
On the Bulldogs’ first offensive play of the second half, Bautista found receiver Abel Martinez wide open up the sideline for a 62-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 35-10.
Linebacker Nick Delgadillo stripped the ball from Kennedy quarterback Jose Cota, scooped up the fumble and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown to close the scoring midway through the third quarter.
Tyreak Walker’s three-yard touchdown run pulled the Central Section Division 5 champions (13-2) to within 28-10 at halftime, but they were shut out in the second half by a defensive unit trying to make a statement.
“They are a Wing-T and triple-option team, which is very problematic but what really helped during the week was the bulletin board material,” said Garfield coach Lorenzo Hernandez. “The coach over there never gave our defense credit ... so we were determined to prove ourselves.”