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High School Sports

Oxnard Pacifica gets in a big hurry to beat Birmingham and advance to state 2-A football final

Oxnard Pacifica players celebrate their 2-A bowl victory over Birmingham on Dec. 7, 2019.
Oxnard Pacifica players celebrate their 2-A bowl victory over Birmingham on Saturday night.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

It’s almost time for the city of Oxnard to start putting together parade plans to celebrate a historic football season by the Pacifica Tritons.

There was no stopping senior quarterback RJ Maria and Pacifica’s no-huddle, hurry-up offense on Saturday night against City Section Open Division champion Lake Balboa Birmingham in the CIF state championship Division 2-A regional bowl game at Birmingham.

Pacifica (14-1) rolled to a 51-23 victory and will play Oakland McClymonds in the 2-A final on Saturday at noon at Cerritos College.

“This is so big for us,” Pacifica coach Michael Moon said. “A team hasn’t done what we’ve done since 1971. I’m so blessed. I love my boys.”

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The Southern Section Division 6 champions demonstrated the old saying “It’s not how you start but how you finish that matters.” The Tritons lost the ball on a bad snap to start the game, setting up a five-yard touchdown catch by Mason White to give Birmingham a 7-0 lead. By the time the first half ended, the Tritons had scored 31 consecutive points.

Maria finished 15-of-20 passing for 257 yards and three touchdowns. Malik Sherrod rushed for 123 yards and one touchdown. Kyrie Wilson caught seven passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns.

Birmingham kept making defensive mistakes and was left off balance when the Tritons quickly lined up soon after the whistle was blown ending a play. Nohl Williams was the first-half star on both sides of the ball. He made two of Pacifica’s three interceptions and caught a 44-yard touchdown pass. Then he left the game in the second half to make a flight for a recruiting trip to UC Davis.

“We went up-tempo as much as we could,” Moon said.

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This season has been particularly meaningful for Moon and the Pacifica community because the team’s success has shown what can happen when neighborhood kids decide to stay at their community public school rather than seek fortune at private schools such as Ventura St. Bonaventure or Westlake Village Oaks Christian. It’s a yearly competition for the best football players in Oxnard.

One of those players who stayed was linebacker Caleb McCullough, an Arizona State commit. He had a sack and symbolizes the type of quality individual playing for the Tritons.

Pacifica running back Malik Sherrod carries the ball during the third quarter against Birmingham.
Pacifica running back Malik Sherrod carries the ball during the third quarter against Birmingham.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

“We’re never satisfied,” he said afterward.

Birmingham could never get its passing attack to perform in a consistent manner. Quarterback Jackson Dadich, who was so effective in last week’s City Section final, finished with 212 yards passing but his three first-half interceptions were costly.

In a final game in a Birmingham uniform, Mason White went out as one of the best players on the field. He finished with five receptions for 122 yards and one touchdown. He was also busy on defense playing cornerback. Arlis Boardingham caught two touchdown passes.

It will be Reseda and Gardena as the representatives for the City Section next week in CIF state championship games.

A Birmingham assistant coach walking in the handshake line was telling Pacifica players, “Good luck, let’s keep it in the South.”

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The city of Oxnard would sure like to throw a parade.


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