Texas might have larger crowds and bigger stadiums for high school football games, but when Corona Centennial and Bellflower St. John Bosco get together, Southern California is second to none in drama and quality of play.
On the night after Thanksgiving, when everyone decided to take a breather from buying, the crowd at Cerritos College could hardly get a breath. And when St. John Bosco fans were leaving their seats at game's end, many were mumbling, "Oh my God."
In a fourth quarter that saw six lead changes in the Southern Section Division 1 semifinal, it was St. John Bosco that came away with an exhausting 49-47 victory over Centennial when the Braves' defense stopped Miles Reed on fourth and one from the St. John Bosco 44 with 2:24 left.
"It was a dogfight," said All-American offensive tackle Wyatt Davis of St. John Bosco. "It was probably the funnest game I've ever played in. There was never a dull moment."
St. John Bosco Coach Jason Negro wasn't kidding before the opening kickoff when he said about Centennial-St. John Bosco games, "They've been amazing."
In 2013 it was 70-49, Bosco. In the 2014 Pac-5 final it was 48-41, Centennial. Last year it was 62-52, Centennial. And Friday night might have topped them all in drama.
After St. John Bosco (11-2) scored on its first possession of the third quarter to open a 28-14 lead, Centennial scored the next 20 points, grabbing a 34-28 lead with 11:11 left in the game on Tanner McKee's 29-yard TD scramble.
Berkeley Holman returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, and the Braves led, 35-34. McKee's 40-yard touchdown pass to Justin Fisher made it 41-35, Centennial. Then Re-al Mitchell found Terrell Bynum for a 50-yard scoring pass and 42-41 Braves lead.
Reed soon followed with a 59-yard touchdown run for a 47-42 Centennial lead. Then Mitchell sprinted 63 yards with 5:11 left for the game-winning score.
The night's key stat was zero turnovers for St. John Bosco, which faces Trinity League rival Santa Ana Mater Dei next Saturday in the final at Angel Stadium.
Mitchell completed 17 of 22 passes for 277 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 116 yards. Terrence Beasley gained 116 yards in 17 carries. Demetrious Flowers ran for two touchdowns and caught a TD pass. Holman had seven catches for 137 yards.
For Centennial (11-2), McKee completed 15 of 20 for 236 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Reed rushed for 223 yards in 28 carries and scored three touchdowns.
One of the most important moments happened early in the second quarter when sophomore Jake Bailey of St. John Bosco intercepted a McKee pass. Centennial's first-string offense had scored touchdowns on 11 consecutive possessions over two games. Momentum changed. St. John Bosco suddenly had the confidence it needed to stop the Huskies.