Nobody in the stadium could recall the last time Corona Centennial lost in the first round of the playoffs, but the Huskies had their fans on the edge of their seats until the end Friday night.
It took more than 47 minutes for Centennial to put the game away, but it did so in emphatic fashion when Tanner McKee burst 47 yards up the middle on a quarterback keeper with 49 seconds left to put the finishing touch on a hard-fought 35-21 victory over Gardena Serra in a CIF Southern Section Division I opener.
"It was a zone read and their No. 3 [Bryan Addison] was looping all night, so I expected to pull it," McKee said. "He did it again, our O-line picked him up, I kept the ball and the play was there like I thought it would be."
Centennial has never lost in the first round of the playoffs in coach Matt Logan's 21 seasons.
McKee completed 16 of 32 passes for 275 yards and Thomas Kinslow rushed for 138 yards and two touchdowns, but the Huskies (9-1) got all they could handle.
"It was a tough battle, they were super fast and gave us a lot of different fronts, a lot of different looks," McKee said. "The line did a great job giving me time, but our receivers really had to fight to get open."
Serra quarterback Blaze McKibbin shook off eight sacks to complete 23 of 53 passes for 284 yards and three touchdowns.
Bryan Addison caught a two-yard touchdown pass from McKibbin to pull Serra within 21-14 with two minutes left in the third quarter and his seven-yard reception pulled the Cavaliers even with 9:52 remaining in the game.
Centennial needed only six plays to respond, taking a 28-21 lead on Kinslow's five-yard run with 7:18 left.
Gary Bryant caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from McKee on Centennial's first drive to open the scoring. Serra (6-5) tied it less than two minutes later on McKibbin's 32-yard touchdown pass to John Jackson.
Centennial regained the lead on Chris Venable's 22-yard touchdown catch late in the first quarter and Kinslow's 61-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter made it 21-7.