Taft defeats Panorama for City Division III football title

Taft receiver Devon Conroy is tackled by Panorama safety Sean Munsch, left, and cornerback Anthony Fuentes.
Taft receiver Devon Conroy is tackled by Panorama safety Sean Munsch, left, and cornerback Anthony Fuentes during the first half on Friday at Birmingham High.
(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

Senior quarterback Wellington Bristow broke a tackle in the backfield, sprinted to his left and stretched the football just inside the pylon for a two point-conversion with 53 seconds left to lift Woodland Hills Taft to a 21-20 triumph over Panorama in the City Section Division III championship game at Lake Balboa Birmingham High on Friday afternoon.

Bristow completed 13 of 27 passes for 172 yards and three touchdowns, including an 11-yard strike to Amir Dutt to pull the top-seeded Toreadors (7-7) to within 20-19.

“We knew were going for two and I knew what I wanted us to run,” Bristow said. “It was play-action where I keep it and the defense read it, but there was no way I was going down. It means so much because people were saying how bad we were all year.”


Daniel Ramirez intercepted a pass inside the Pythons’ 40-yard line with 39 seconds left to seal the win.

Melvin Linares rushed 18 times for 140 yards and all three scores for the third-seeded Pythons (8-6), who were vying for their first City football title since the school opened in 2006. Panorama had upset No. 2 San Fernando 39-13 in the semifinals.

Entering the season, Taft had not won a football game since a 35-0 shutout of Chatsworth on Oct. 27, 2017, and the Toreadors’ losing streak reached 26 before they snapped it with a 43-6 win against Van Nuys on Aug. 27.

“We’ve come a long way since we scrimmaged them [Panorama] in August — and so have they,” said first-year coach Jeff Kearin, formerly the head coach at Los Angeles Loyola and Cal State Northridge. “I can point to 10 guys right now who never put a helmet on before the season. We’ve battled all year and even tonight all bets were off, but we pulled it out.”

Venice High coach and former player Angelo Gasca won his first City Section football title in 32 years as a coach at the school when the Gondoliers beat Canoga Park on Friday.

Nov. 26, 2021