Chaminade wins CIFSS Western Division title with upset of Gardena Serra. It’s a win that may have CIF bowl game ramifications from Bakersfield to San Diego.
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The last time there was a game-winning field goal kicked in a CIF Southern Section championship at Serra of Gardena it was the host Cavaliers going bonkers in 2009 with a 41-40 overtime triumph over unbeaten and nationally ranked Oaks Christian.
On Friday night, visiting Chaminade of West Hills went nuts after junior Ben Kreitenberg made a 27-yard field goal with 0:00 showing on the clock to hand host Serra a gut-wrenching 38-35 defeat. Like Oaks Christian in 2009 on the same field, Serra was unbeaten and nationally ranked.
Chaminade had come to Serra earlier in the season in Week 7 and lost to the Cavaliers 36-0 in a Mission League contest. This time, the Eagles not only ended Serra’s hopes of possibly playing next week in the CIF Southern California Open Division championship but they won the school’s first section football title in its 64-year history.
“It’s a progression each season and there’s a lot of stuff we do that is just not ready in Week 7,” said Chaminade head coach Ed Croson, whose team improved to 12-2. “And seeing them one time before also means we can work on playing them a second time.”
Croson also has the luxury of having an Elite 11 quarterback, Miami commit Brad Kaaya, on his roster. Although the Eagles were led by running back Donovan Lee’s four touchdown runs, Kaaya played what longtime SoCal recruiting analyst Greg Biggins said “was the best game of his life.”
Kaaya completed 22-yard and 30-yard completions to Donovan Lee to set up the game-winning field goal. He also converted on a key third down pass to the 2-yard line to set up Chaminade’s earlier touchdown in the fourth quarter that tied the score (35-35) and on a crucial fourth-down play in the third quarter he hit on a 4-yard TD pass to sophomore Dymond Lee.
Serra seemed to be in good shape twice earlier in the game after sensational kick return touchdowns by senior Adoree’ Jackson. First, Jackson took a punt at his own 8-yard line, danced around a couple of tacklers, then took off down the home sidelines for a 92-yard score. That gave Serra a 25-14 lead in the second quarter. Then in the third quarter, after Lee scored a 2-yard run to make the score 28-21, Jackson received the ensuing kickoff and ripped off a 93-yard touchdown that quickly jumped the margin back up to 35-21.
After the kickoff return, however, Chaminade answered right back with scoring drive that ended on the fourth-down TD pass from Kaaya to Dymond Lee.
Prior to Kreitenberg’s game-winning field goal, Serra had its chance to win the game. With quarterback Jalen Greene rushing and passing, the Cavaliers drove down to the Chaminade 12-yard line, but couldn’t break the 35-35 tie. At that point, Greene fired four straight incomplete passes.
It should be noted that during Chaminade’s final drive for the field goal and in its previous drive for a fourth-quarter score, both possessions were aided by 15-yard pass interference penalties.
“I told our kids that some of them had been here four or five times, and that we could walk out here and have it feel like a home game,” Croson said. “Obviously, Serra is a great program with great players. Maybe 364 days out of the year we can’t beat them but on this day we did.”
CIF Bowl Picture
Serra came into the game at 13-0 and was No. 4 overall in the state rankings. Some national rankings had the Cavaliers as high as No. 10.
Many in Southern California all season had been hoping to see Serra play St. John Bosco of Bellflower (playing Mater Dei of Santa Ana on Saturday for the CIFSS Pac-5 Division final) in the CIF Southern California Open Division bowl game but now all of that is out the window.
Chaminade instead is on the board at 12-2 and will be No. 1 in the next CIF Division II South rankings (which will be released before Sunday’s CIF bowl game selection meeting). There has been speculation (even by us) that Chaminade could now go up into the Open Division, but since the Eagles have a head-to-head loss to Hart of Newhall and Hart won in the CIFSS Northern Division final on Friday 28-21 over Valencia (avenging an earlier loss) it’s more likely that those two would play each other in the D2 South bowl game in a rematch. The score of that earlier game? 55-54 in overtime. A rematch indeed.
So if Serra isn’t going to be in the Open Division and neither is Chaminade, who’s next? Well, the answer to that question was given out in Corona where the defending SoCal Open Division champions from Centennial beat Vista Murrieta of Murrieta 26-12 to win the CIFSS Inland Division crown.
Heading into the night, Centennial (even with two early losses) was thought to be headed to the CIF D1 South bowl game for a probable matchup against San Diego Open Division champion Mission Hills.
Serra’s loss, therefore, also opens up a second D1 South slot for another team. That team probably would now be Bakersfield. The Drillers (11-2) rolled over Clovis North of Fresno 60-21 in the Central Section Division I title.
L.A. City champion Crenshaw also became bowl eligible on Friday night with a 20-13 win over Narbonne, but the Cougars (10-4) have a loss to Edison of the Central Section and wouldn’t have a shot to be chosen ahead of Bakersfield.
The odd team out in all of this probably is St. Augustine of San Diego. The Saints (11-2) won the CIF San Diego Section Division II title earlier this week and probably would be getting a bowl game if Serra had won on Friday and then was moved up to the Open Division. Instead, it’s likely that a Hart-Chaminade rematch will be played and St. Augustine will unfortunately be out.