With high hopes of its second consecutive CIF-Southern Section Western Division crown and a spot in the prestigious California State Open Bowl Series, Serra High's football team, for the second consecutive time, hosted Mission League rival Chaminade High from West Hills for the title last Friday.
Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, with a large majority of its top starting players back from last season's Western Division and California Division II championship squad, several critical defensive penalties finally caught up with them and the Eagles rallied for a 38-35 upset win over the nationally ranked team (eighth by USA Today and 10th by Maxpreps) on a 27-yard field goal from junior kicker Ben Kreitenberg as time expired.
From there, Chaminade players celebrated their first ever Southern Section championship while Serra players were in shock.
The Cavaliers were called for three defensive pass interference and one roughing the passer infraction in the fourth quarter that gave the Eagles extra opportunties. Perhaps the most vital was a controversial pass interference that helped Chaminade get the ball at the Serra 10-yard line. After three pass incompletions by quarterback Brad Kaaya, Kreitenberg was brought in for the short field goal attempt as his kick made it through the center of the uprights enabling the Eagles to increase their overall record to 12-2 entering their Southern California Regional Division II Bowl Championship Game against Northern Division champion Newhall Hart, while Serra ended its season at 13-1 and its 16-game winning streak. The Cavaliers' previous loss was in league to host Chaminade 28-20 last year. Serra would go on to avenge that defeat in the Western Division final 30-28, then get wins over Huntington Beach Edison (27-10 in the Regional Bowl) and Oakdale, 42-15 for the state championship.
"It was real disappointing," Serra head coach Scott Altenberg said. "We can't fault our effort. We had a lot of pass interference calls and we couldn't pass. I take my hats off for them. They won. Our offense didn't get on track in the second half."
In Mission play on Oct. 18, the Cavaliers rolled over the Eagles 36-0, but Altenberg and the team knew that Chaminade would play a lot better last Friday. The Eagles did but Serra managed to take leads of 28-14 at halftime and 35-21 with 5:21 left in the third quarter when five-star All-American Adoree Jackson sprinted a kickoff return 93 yards for a touchdown. That came after Chaminade cut Serra's lead to 28-21 on a 3-yard TD run by running back Cory Watkins. Watkins scored four touchdowns in the contest.
After that, the Eagles, behind Kaaya and Watkins, rallied for two touchdowns on a 4-yard pass from Kaaya to sophomore wide receiver Dymond Lee and a 3-yard run by Watkins. The latter TD was aided by a roughing the passer call on Serra after it appeared to stop Chaminade when Jackson intercepted a pass at about the Cavalier 30-yard line.
Serra was about to regain the lead as it drove to the Eagle 12-yard line. On a fourth-down-and-10 play there and being without kicker Sifi Maama who injured an ankle earlier in the game, Altenberg opted for the Cavaliers to go for the first down or touchdown. Unfortunately, quarterback Jalen Greene's pass to wide receiver Gregory Webb was overthrown and Chaminade took over from there.
That was when the Eagles, aided by two of the three Serra fourth period pass interference penalties, drove to the 10 and scored the winning three points.
Jackson also had a 92-yard punt return late in the second quarter that gave the Cavaliers a 25-14 lead.
Greene, who was 11-for-29 for 229 yards and three touchdowns, had two of those scoring passes to UCLA-bound Jordan Lasley from 37 and 34 yards. His other was Serra's first to Deontay Burnett of 52 yards.
Lasley had five receptions for 127 yards.
Maama was 2-for-4 on point after touchdown attempts but had a first half ending 38-yard field goal that gave the Cavaliers a 14-point halftime lead.
El Segundo falls in Northwest Final: El Segundo High's football team made the CIF-Southern Section Northwest Division for the first time in the school's history as it traveled to Nordhoff High in Ojai last Saturday.
On a very cold night with the temperature in the mid 30's, the Eagles found the defending CIF champions too much to stop in a 49-21 loss.
El Segundo made efforts to stay with the Rangers but was unable to stop their powerful rushing attack.
Keying Nordhoff (13-1), which will face Southern Division champion Newport Beach Corona del Mar in the Southern California Regional Division III Championship Game Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, was running back Matt Woodcock who ran for 208 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries and Taylor Livingston who carried the ball 23 times for 141 yards and four TD's.
For the Eagles, who ended their season at 11-3, junior quarterback Lars Nootbar completed 17 of 26 passes for 284 yards, one touchdown and one interception but was sacked four times. Nootbar also scored one TD on a 4-yard run that got El Segundo within two touchdowns at 28-14 with 1:23 left in the third quarter before the Rangers put it away in the final period.
Senior wide receiver Jamie Stewart caught 10 passes for 173 yards and scored a touchdown on a 2-yard run.
Junior wide receiver Nick Karsseboom had two receptions for 79 yards, including a 65-yard TD from Nootbar in the fourth quarter.
With numerous starters returning, including Nootbar, Karsseboom and key offensive linemen, El Segundo moves up to the Ocean League of the Western Division and will be in with two very good programs in Culver City, this season's league champion, and Santa Monica. Hawthorne, Lawndale and Beverly Hills are the other teams in the Ocean. The Eagles, though, hope they can win that tougher league.
Special team mistakes cost Narbonne: A rash of special team errors prevented Narbonne High's football team from winning its third straight CIF-Los Angeles City Division I championship as it fell to Crenshaw 20-13 last Friday at East L.A. College's Weingart Stadium.
Three of those bad snaps on punt attempts led to Cougar safeties.
Several other mistakes also cost the Gauchos, including when running back Johnell Jackson fumbled away that ball that led to Crenshaw's eventual winning touchdown. Corey Walker scored on a 1-yard run that gave the Cougars an 18-13 lead after his key 15-yard run that set up the TD.
Narbonne (11-3) started out with a 13-0 first quarter lead on a 1-yard TD run by Larry Suega and a 39-yard scoring pass from quarterback Eban Jackson to wide receiver D.J. Young, but its offense sputtered from there.
The Cougars closed the Gauchos' lead to 13-9 on a 1-yard run by Marcus Walton late in the second period.
Eban Jackson completed 11 of 26 passes for 136 yards, one TD and two interceptions. He rushed for 66 yards on 14 carries. Young caught seven passes for 80 yards and one touchdown.
Last Week's CIF Championship Scores:
Friday, Dec. 6:
L.A. City Section:
Division I: Crenshaw 20, Narbonne 13.
Western Division: Chaminade 38, Serra 35.
Saturday, Dec. 7:
Northwest Division: Nordhoff 49, El Segundo 21.
Snyder's Final South Bay Top 10: 1. Serra (13-1); 2. Narbonne (11-3); 3. Palos Verdes (9-3); 4. West Torrance (10-3); 5. El Segundo (10-4); 6. Mira Costa (9-3); 7. Carson (7-6); 8. Redondo (6-5); 9. San Pedro (8-4); 10. Culver City (6-5).