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When potential section champions began to emerge in this division in the postseason, it became apparent the SoCal representative would be a huge favorite over section champions that potentially could represent NorCal.
This scenario became magnified when Serra of Gardena, which was eyed as a potential opponent for St. John Bosco of Bellflower in the SoCal Open Division bowl game, lost to Chaminade of West Hills, Enterprise’s opponent in Saturday afternoon’s Div. II bowl game, in the CIF Southern Section Western Division title game.
Chaminade wasn’t chosen for the SoCal Open Division game, and that created a tall task for the unbeaten CIF Northern Section Division I champs when the Eagles were chosen for the Division II contest. Even if Chaminade would have lost to CIFSS Northern Division champ Hart of Newhall in the SoCal Division II bowl, the Indians owned an earlier win over Chaminade and the tall task would have been relatively the same. When it all played out, the unfortunate scenario became reality as Chaminade simply had too many weapons and cruised to a 41-9 victory.
Chaminade (14-2) capped a memorable season in which it not only won the program’s first section title in 61 years of playing football, but also avenged both of its regular season losses — the other being a 36-0 setback to Serra in Mission League play.
Chaminade also became the second program ever from the San Fernando Valley to win a CIF state title. In 2011, Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth won the Division IV title with a 34-13 victory over Le Grand.
“This was going to be an expression of everything we’ve been about this season,” said Chaminade head coach Ed Croson. “The state final in this division for the last two years basically has now been between us and Serra. That game was really the winner-take-all. This game was the like the big prize at the end of the journey.”
For Enterprise (13-1), its first loss of the season dropped the CIF Northern Section to 0-2 all-time in CIF State Championship Bowl Games. In 2008, Hamilton Union lost 59-7 to St. Margaret’s of San Juan Capistrano in the inaugural Division IV bowl game.
The game was competitive in the first quarter as both teams traded field goals. After Enterprise (the most Northern team geography-wise in the state ever to appear in a state bowl game) tied the game with 1:38 remaining in the first quarter on a 37-yard field goal by Sheldon Highfill, Chaminade’s Donovan Lee simply took the game over and led his team to victory.
Lee set an individual CIF state bowl game record with three interceptions and two touchdowns.
“We all knew this was going to be a big stage,” said Lee, who has committed to Colorado. “We wanted to be able to show people how far we’ve come this season. These are memories you just can’t beat.”
Lee got Chaminade’s explosion going by taking a swing pass near midfield down to the Enterprise six-yard line with 13 seconds remaining in the first quarter. On the first snap of the second period, QB Brad Kaaya (17-23, 276 yards, 2 TDs) hit senior WR Brayden Lenius on a 10-yard touchdown reception.
After junior defensive lineman Joel Loth picked off a screen pass thrown by Enterprise QB Bobby Luken (10-20, 77 yards, 4 INts), Kaaya hit Lenius for a 38-yard reception and on the next play Lee took a sweep nine yards around the right side to paydirt to give ‘Nade a 17-3 lead with 7:11 remaining in the second quarter.
Lee promptly picked off Luken one minute and 20 seconds later on a pass in the flat and went in 19 yards for a touchdown and a 24-3 lead.
Asked if it was one of the easiest touchdowns he’s ever scored, Lee said. “I told myself to him (Luken) don’t throw it, don’t throw it and he did.”
Right before the half, Lee picked off his second pass at Chaminade’s eight-yard line to kill a potential Enterprise scoring drive. His third interception with a 32-yard return came with 10:01 remaining in the third period. Offensively, Lee gained 23 yards rushing and caught three passes for 50 yards.
After Lee’s heroics, Chaminade added a 20-yard field goal to give the Eagles a 27-3 lead and Kayaa threw touchdown passes to Kieran Yancy (3 yards) and Brandyn Lee (30 yards) to round out Nade’s scoring.
The Enterprise faithful finally had something to cheer about with 10 seconds remaining in the game when back-up QB Chase Turner connected with Justin Abney with seven seconds remaining in the game.
“We wanted to prove we can play football up north, and we were pretty decent in the first half,” Enterprise coach Darren Trueblood said. “The boys couldn’t give us one more ounce of effort than they gave us, we just ran into a team that had too much. The trophy we got isn’t the one we wanted, but we’ll take it.”
Although Abney’s touchdown was a lighthearted moment, there will be nothing for the CIF and California football fans to cheer about if future games in this particular division continue in this manner. When all the section champions are crowned, there simply isn’t many NorCal teams that can compete with its SoCal counterparts using the current bowl selection criteria and cutoffs.
Perhaps a future North Coast Section Division II champ such as Clayton Valley of Concord can be a viable opponent, but a Northern Section Division I champ surely won’t be for a team likely to finish No. 3 in the final overall state rankings.
For Croson, the win over Enterprise rubberstamps his resume as one of the state’s best coaches. After winning three L.A. City Section titles in four years and four overall at Birmingham of Lake Balboa, Chaminade hired him to make the program competitive amongst the state’s very best.
Croson’s 2007 Birmingham championship club was narrowly edged out of a bowl berth by Corona Centennial, but tonight’s victory completes the mission he began at his previous school.
“In retrospect, maybe I’m not as afraid of (the Open Division) as I thought,” Croson said. “Maybe this team could have competed, the way Brad has been playing and the way guys like Brayden have gotten. It was great to get over the hump (with the win over Serra). A lot of people, a lot of kids all contributed to this.”