As the 2012 regular season wore on, evidence grew that which team emerged to represent Northern California in Division II in the CIF’s new regional bowl game format was going to have its hands full with its Southern California counterparts.
The main reason for the potential development was the move of top-ranked teams out of Division II in the north from the CIF Sac Joaquin Section and into the south from the CIF Southern Section. With quality NorCal teams such as Folsom considered Division I for purposes of the CIF bowl games and with CIF Southern Section Western Division champ Serra owning a regular season victory over Pac-Five champion Long Beach Poly, plus Southern Section Southwest Division champ Edison of Huntington Beach and San Diego Section Division II champ Oceanside fielding strong squads, the possibly of a blowout win for the south was clear.
That development became reality as SoCal representative Serra used big first-half performances from junior quarterback Jalen Greene, senior running back Marques Rodgers and junior multi-purpose threat Adorre Jackson to defeat NorCal representative Oakdale 42-15.
With its win on a cool Saturday night at The Home Depot Center, Serra upped its CIF Championship Bowl Game won-loss record to 2-1, with the first victory in 2009 over Marin Catholic of Kentfield. The Cavaliers joined Oceanside (Div. I and II) and De La Salle of Concord (Open and Div. I) as state bowl champions in multiple divisions. Serra’s previous bowl victory over Marin Catholic came in Division III.
“Absolutely, this was the best we’ve played of the three games,” said Serra head coach Scott Altenberg. “We played very inspired football from the start to the finish. The first time we didn’t play that hard and the second time we played a great team (Folsom).”Serra (14-2) scored on its opening drive, capped by a 27-yard jaunt by Rodgers where he was initially stopped at the line of scrimmage — only to bounce off a tackler and end up in the end zone. Rodgers’ opening score came with 8:31 in the first quarter.
With 4:45 showing on the clock, Rodgers took a sweep to the left and raced 57 yards for a score and a 14-0 Serra lead. With 30 seconds remaining in the opening stanza, Rodgers scored his third touchdown on a 4th-and-goal from the one-yard line.
Rodgers finished the game with five carries for 96 yards rushing and three touchdowns for Serra, ranked No. 5 in the CalHiSports.com State Top 25 and guaranteed to finish in the top five in next week’s final ratings.
After Rodgers did his early damage against Oakdale (14-2), which came into the game ranked No. 25 overall in the state, it was Jackson’s turn.
The 5-foot-10, 175-pound junior, who figures to be one of the West Coast’s top recruits next season, put Serra up 28-0 when he hauled in a pass from Greene for a 50-yard score after the Mustangs turned the ball over on downs. Jackson, last year’s CIF state long jump champion, then erased any doubts as to the outcome of this game when he took a short swing pass around the 25-yard line, made at least three Oakdale defenders whiff at tackles near the 10-yard line and catapulted from the five-yard line onto the back of another Oakdale player and nearly landed on his feet in the end zone.
Jackson’s second touchdown made the score 35-0 at halftime. With 9:07 remaining in the third quarter, Jackson scored his third touchdown of the game when he took off running on a fake punt and burst up the sideline on a 78-yard high-stepping scamper to make it 42-0 in favor of the Cavs.
“We just wanted to hang onto the ball in this game and score,” Altenberg said. “They have such a great group of kids who play hard and can hold onto the ball. We didn’t want them to get any momentum.”
Greene finished the game accounting for 246 yards. He completed seven of 13 pass attempts for 141 yards and two touchdowns. He added 105 yards rushing on nine carries. The explosive Jackson caught three passes for 82 yards and the two scores in addition to his rushing yardage on the punt fake touchdown.
Serra out gained Oakdale in total yardage 520-339. Oakdale had five yards passing at halftime and quarterback Spencer Thomas finished with 69 yards in the air.
Oakdale, the Sac Joaquin Division III Section champs, prevented the game from going to a fourth quarter running clock when running back Nikk Ryan (20 carries, 71 yards) scored from four yards out off left tackle with 33 seconds left in the third quarter. Thomas then scored on a two-point conversion attempt.
Oakdale never showed any quit, even getting on the scoreboard one more time with 5:48 remaining in the game on a one-yard lug up the gut by Marcus Northcutt (28 carries, 158 yards), but it didn’t change the reality of this game.
A reality that was beginning to take shape long before the game’s opening kickoff.
Offensive Player of the Game: Jalen Greene 6-3, 200 Jr.
The junior signal-caller stepped up his game in the postseason to lead Serra to its second state title in four years. Greene cut down on his turnovers down the stretch and threw two touchdowns passes against zero interceptions against Oakdale. He also was only sacked once and did not fumble while rushing nine times for 105 yards. He was the Cavs’ leading rusher in this game.
Defensive Player of the Game: Blake Walls (Serra, Gardena) 5-8, 190 Fr.
The ninth-grader is a name to watch for in the future as the Cavaliers will be major CIF Bowl Game contenders at least for the next two seasons. Walls had an interception with 9:07 remaining in the third period to set up Adorre Jackson’s sensational 78-yard fake punt run touchdown. He also came up with an interception in the red zone to kill Oakdale’s last chance to score near the end of the game.
Special Teams Player of the Game: Adorre Jackson (Serra, Gardena) 5-10, 177 Jr.
There were no field goals in this game, so it only makes sense to give this award to Jackson. In addition to his two receiving touchdowns, he also had a 78-yard punt fake run touchdown to basically seal the victory for Serra. He also actually punted, booting one 42 yards.
Underclass Player of the Game: John Houston (Serra, Gardena) 6-3, 215 Soph.
Here’s yet another underclass player who made an impact for Scott Altenberg’s program, Houston racked up 14 solo tackles against Oakdale’s run-oriented offense. The talented linebacker also assisted on three others and had a pass breakup. He’s just another reason why the Cavaliers will begin high in next season’s preseason state rankings.
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