The expectation in a Trinity League opener between No. 1 St. John Bosco of Bellflower and No. 6 JSerra of San Juan Capistrano was that the Braves would have their way on both sides of the ball against the Lions, but that certainly wasn’t the reality.
JSerra showed why it came into the game undefeated and went stride for stride with the Braves, but fell in the end, 35-28, in an exciting, uptempo affair Friday night at St. John Bosco High.
The Braves came in touting quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, the top-ranked quarterback nationally in the junior class, but JSerra sent everything it had at him and made his time in the pocket limited and uncomfortable.
St. John Bosco (6-0) relied on the powerful running of senior George Holani, who rushed for 154 yards in 25 carries and scored four total touchdowns, including a 14-yard receiving score.
Holani’s touchdown catch gave the Braves a 28-21 lead at the 1:22 mark of the third quarter and his 43-yard rushing touchdown with 7:14 to go in the fourth gave Bosco a 35-21 cushion.
But JSerra answered with a 28-yard pass from Caden Bell to Tyler Shimomura with 4:30 left to cut the lead back to seven, 35-28.
JSerra (5-1) had an opportunity to get the ball back with just over two minutes to play, but an illegal substitution penalty gave the Braves a crucial first down and allowed them to drain out the clock.
The first half didn’t play out as many outside the JSerra team and its fans expected.
The Braves got on the board first on a two-yard touchdown run from Holani on their first possession of the game, taking a 7-0 lead early.
But JSerra’s defense held tough throughout the first quarter and sparked its offense as Bell executed a gutsy fourth down passing play by hitting Tarik Luckett for an eight-yard score to tie it at 7-7 with 11:47 left in the second quarter.
The Lions’ special teams then got into the playmaking category as sophomore linebacker Jaden Genova blocked a punt and Anthony Ward recovered it on the Braves’ 6-yard line, setting up a six-yard touchdown run from Chris Street, giving JSerra a 14-7 advantage with 10:20 left in the first half.
The Braves answered, tying the score at 14 with an 11-play, 85-yard scoring drive capped by a four-yard touchdown pass from Uiagalelei to Jude Wolfe with 4:49 left in the second quarter.