Serra fails to tame Oaks Christian
It was fitting that it's the most open City title race in five years, the two best teams played for a tie at the Coliseum for the City championship.
Or maybe it's not depending on which side you were on.
After playing to a tie in regulation on October 24 before going to triple overtime, Narbonne and San Pedro settled for a 21-21 tie to be named co-champions of the City.
San Pedro quarterback Barry Heads threw a 15-yard touchdown to tight end Benjamin Weischedel on the game's final play and instead of going for the win, kicker Donald Jarrin trotted for the game-tying extra point to cap the 52-yard drive.
"We wanted to win it by ourselves, but this is better than losing," Heads said.
The San Pedro sidelines erupted while Narbonne stood in silent disbelief. Then came the ceremony where both coaches being presented with the City Championship trophy separately and receiving congratulations.
It was the first tie in an upper-division City championship and the first overall since 1981 when Canoga Park and Van Nuys split the 3A City Championship. But the unhappy split overshadowed a great comeback by the Pirates, who overcame a 14-point deficit in the 4th quarter
San Pedro came back from 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter. But where there was joy and exultation on the Pirates sidelines, there was shock and disgust on Narbonne's side.
With a 21-7 lead and in the red zone early in the fourth quarter, the Gauchos appeared to put an exclamation point on their apparent victory. But San Pedro's vaunted defense, which had been picked apart most of the game, finally broke through.
Defensive back Corey Hughes picking off Narbonne quarterback Josh Moten at the Pirates' 9-yard line and returned it 72 yards. Two plays later, Heads connected with Weischedel on a 25-yard play.
The Gauchos almost made another critical mistake when on their final punt, a player ran into San Pedro's return man who called for a fair catch. The penalty gave the Pirates a shot from the 48-yard line instead of the 33 with 45 seconds left.
Narbonne's players and coaches reacted like they had lost the game and although they knew there would be no overtime; they had hoped to avoid being in that situation.
"It's disappointing the way it ended," senior Byron Moore Jr. said, "But we're still proud of ourselves from bringing Narbonne to a championship-caliber program."
It wasn't a revenge victory but it felt like one for San Pedro and its fans after being on the wrong end of that heartbreaking 27-24 loss to Narbonne in October.
This time it was the Pirates who were celebrating a comeback. And there was never a doubt what would happen if they scored on that final drive.
"I couldn't deprive those kids," San Pedro coach Mike Walsh said. "I couldn't let them live a lifetime of being a runner-up because of my decision."
It's a decision that may not have to be made in future games as City Section Commissioner Barbara Fiege said after the game that the City would look into changing their rule for future title games.
"Coaches had never brought it up before, but with the advent of the state bowl game, we may have to look at that," Fiege said.
While both squads at least get to share the trophy and plaque, it was a different feeling for Serra, who once again saw their season end in disappointing fashion to Oaks Christian 63-28 in the Northwest Division Championship.
The Cavaliers had the game tied at 14 with two minutes left in the second quarter, but after giving up two late scores to tailback Malcolm Jones, they fell behind 28-14 at halftime and were promptly picked apart by quarterback Nick Montana in the third.
Montana, the son of NFL Hall-of-Famer Joe Montana, led three scoring drives to make it 49-14, within seven minutes which sucked the life out of the Serra sidelines and ended their undefeated season.
Jones finished his night with 220 rushing yards, 96 receiving and four total touchdowns, once again proving to be the factor against Serra. The junior rushed for 169 yards and two touchdowns last year when the Lions won 44-7 in the quarterfinals.
The Cavaliers showed their grit by mustering two late scores in the fourth but it was too little too late.
Robert Woods did most of Serra's damage, with two receiving touchdowns and a 79-yard punt return for a score, but he and his teammates were mostly neutralized by the Lions' dominant offensive line and their difficulty in tackling the 6-0, 217 lbs. Jones.
With most of their players returning next year, the Cavaliers should once again be a player in their division. That may be some consolation to Coach Scott Altenberg later, but he chose to focus on his seniors after the game, such as Carl Winston and Ted Landers, who played their last game for him.
"They've done a lot for this program," Altenberg said of the group that helped win consecutive league titles and double-digit win seasons.