State’s No. 4 team trails No. 8 Oceanside until 3:19 is left and ends with 50-39 triumph. QB Jalen Greene accounts for 450 yards and five touchdowns in matchup that kick starts UT San Diego Honor Bowl.
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As expected, the passionate fans of Oceanside High packed their stands and implored their boys to rise to the moment during Friday’s first game of the UT San Diego Honor Bowl against Serra of Gardena.
It was a matchup of two programs that have both won two CIF state bowl game titles, including Serra in Division II last season, much to the chagrin of Oceanside supporters who believed their team (and not Edison of Huntington Beach) should have played Serra in the SoCal Division II regional bowl game.
While Oceanside’s skill players nearly matched Serra stride for stride in long stretches, the Pirates made too many mistakes that the Cavaliers capitalized on. They came from behind in the fourth quarter and won a shootout contest 50-39.
“I think it did (live up the hype),” said Serra coach Scott Altenberg, whose team entered the week at No. 4 in the Cal-Hi Sports State Top 25 and were No. 15 in the Student Sports FAB 50. “The game was so long that at the end of the first quarter I thought it was halftime. Oceanside has a great team and a great program and our kids were excited to be here.”
Oceanside, ranked eighth in the latest Cal-Hi Sports state top 25, surged to a 39-28 lead in the second half on a 23-yard run by junior running back Josh Bernard and on a school record 52-yard field goal by Jackson Koonce.
Later in the third quarter, the Pirates had the ball with their 11-point lead, but the back-and-forth contest flipped again when Serra linebacker Malachi Mageo stepped in front of an errant pass and scored on an easy 13-yard touchdown. An ensuing two-point conversion cut the score to 39-36.
Oceanside maintained the lead until 3:19 remained in the game. It was a third down play from the Serra 46-yard line. It began by quarterback Jalen Greene extending it long enough so that teammate Jordan Lasley could take advantage of blown coverage to get wide open. He caught the ball at the 15-yard line and scored the go-ahead touchdown.
A final mistake by the Pirates occurred on the ensuing kickoff when a pooch-style kick was bobbled and Serra recovered at the Oceanside 20. One play later, after a penalty against the Pirates brought the ball even closer, Serra standout Adoree’ Jackson leaped into the end zone on a seven-yard run.
Oceanside’s chances to be leading more than 29-28 at halftime were hurt by a big penalty. Leading 22-14, defensive tackle Anthony Pineda intercepted a pass from Greene and ran it all the way down to the Serra 2-yard line. Instead of the Pirates having a first-and-goal from there, though, a 15-yard dead ball penalty pushed them back and they ended up turning the ball back over themselves.
“Mistakes are part of the game, but other than that I thought we out-played them,” said Oceanside head coach John Carroll. “As talented as that team is, we were ahead of them until just over three minutes were left. It was those mistakes and too many kids with cramps that cost us the game.”
If there was one player on the night who should have had cramps it was Greene. The Boise State commit and three-year starter (who looks to be bigger, stronger and faster than last season) completed 24 of 37 passes for 317 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed 19 times for 143 yards and two scores.
Junior Matt Romero was the primary quarterback for the Pirates after he shared those duties last week against St. Augustine of San Diego with sophomore Dakota Miller. While Romero threw three interceptions, including the game-changer to Mageo, he also hit on 12 of 23 for 269 yards and four scores. Miller had to play for two series in the second half due to Romero battling cramps.
“We have had a lot of injuries so we’re not as deep this season as we’ve been,” Altenberg said. “I think we have to get used to these types of games. We’ll get better and improve on some things and I like how our team fought hard in the second half.”