View Park Prep defeats Annenberg 36-28 to win City 8-Man title
The celebration began to bubble on the View Park Prep sidelines when Annenberg quarterback Deon Bishop saw his fourth-down pass fall incomplete with a little more than a minute left in the game.
Two kneeldowns later, it erupted into an outburst of cheers and tears as the Knights (11-1) clinched their first City Section 8-Man Division Title with a 36-28 victory on December 4 at Contreras High School.
Trailing 14-6 in the first quarter and struggling to contain Annenberg tailback Brenton Wallace, who had scored twice, the Knights made two adjustments. They switched to a pass-oriented offense and got more aggressive on defense.
"There were some holes in their defense so we wanted to attack their zone through the air," head coach Robert Ambers said, a bit chilled after being dumped with the water cooler.
After throwing an incompletion on his first pass, quarterback Leon Garrett settled into a rhythm, going 9-for-12 in the second quarter. His touchdown passes to Chris Landry and Jonah Ross - along with their ensuing two-point conversions - gave the Knights a 22-14 lead into halftime.
Annenberg opened the second half with a four minute-drive that ended with a 19-yard tipped pass from Bishop to senior Ben Aranda for a touchdown. The drive saw the Panthers convert twice on fourth-down, the first aided by a pass-interference call and the second was Aranda's touchdown.
The ensuing two-point conversion tied the game at 22 but View Park would score on their next two possessions to make it 36-22 with 8:24 left in the fourth quarter.
In between the scoring drives, the defense made a critical stop. With Annenberg facing 1st down on the Knights 11-yard line, Bishop was sacked twice and sophomore fullback Antonio Rodriguez was stuffed for a 6-yard loss. On 4th down, Bishop saw his pass picked off in the end zone by Ross.
The Panthers would score again, a 12-yard reception to Wallace to make it 36-28, but their final drive got off to a rough start. A sack and a fumble they recovered put them in a hole but another View Park penalty bailed them out.
It would prove uneventful as with 1st down on the 30-yard line, the Panthers gained negative-2 yards culminating with Bishop's last-ditch pass in the end zone.
Garrett finished 15-for-23 with 242 yards, three touchdown passes and also rushed for two scores. Landry, a junior, caught two touchdowns and finished with 177 yards on 12 receptions.
"My mission was for the seniors to get one more title before they leave to remember us by," Garrett said, recalling the five members of the 2006 Knights squad that went undefeated to win the Southern Section 8-Man Division I title.
In addition to Ross' interception, the Knights defense - who played without junior co-captain Anthony Bradley in the fourth after he suffered an arm injury - picked up three sacks (two shared by Lamar Finnikin and Jaja Bakari) while holding Wheeler to 50 all-purpose yards after the second quarter.
Wheeler, a senior who was playing his first year of football, finished with 147 all-purpose yards (94 receiving) and three touchdowns (two receiving).
As Bradley, who played on the 2006 team, winced his way through the ceremony, his teammates rallied around him as they talked about how they were motivated to finish what he started.
"We wanted to win this for Anthony," Landry said, underscoring the tight-knit family this team had become through hard work and determination before the season.
The team's last meeting came in September 2007, a 28-6 victory by Annenberg. The teams were scheduled to meet in November but the game was suspended due to the Southern California wildfires.