Top-ranked St. John Bosco turns to its running game to down No. 5 Long Beach Poly 33-21 to advance to its second consecutive CIF Southern Section Pac-5 title game. The Braves will face state No. 4 Corona Centennial next Saturday night in a rematch of last year’s SoCal Open Division regional bowl game.
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In a physical CIFSS Pac-5 semifinal game with two talented opponents that know each other well, the most physical team down the stretch pulled out the win. That team was defending Pac-5 and CIF state open division champ St. John Bosco of Bellflower, the state’s No. 1 ranked team, which trailed No. 5 Long Beach Poly 21-20 entering the final period. Bosco’s running game, however, set up the final two touchdowns as the Braves advanced to their second straight Pac-5 title game with a 33-21 victory.
The first touchdown of the final period came with 7:58 remaining when UCLA-bound QB Josh Rosen hit WR Joey Chenoweth on a fake bubble screen, 23-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline to give St. John Bosco (12-1) a 27-21 lead. Bosco’s Clifford Simms set up the touchdown with tough running and down the stretch it was fellow RB Sean McGrew that made the difference.
McGrew was big on a game-clinching, six-play, 60-yard drive that he capped on a third-and-5 play with a 21-yard touchdown run. McGrew’s scoring jaunt came with 1:44 remaining in the game and punched Bosco’s ticket to Anaheim Stadium next Saturday night versus state No. 4 Corona Centennial. The Huskies downed No. 8 Bishop Amat of La Puente, 38-37, after a late Lancers’ two-point conversion attempt wasn’t converted.
For Bosco, its semifinal victory erased the memory of a 2012 Pac-5 semifinal contest won by Poly, 13-10. That game was played in a thick fog at Veteran’s stadium while Friday night’s game was played before an overflow crowd at Cerritos College. The latter is the same venue where McGrew and St. John Bosco defeated Corona Centennial in last year’s SoCal Open Division bowl game (a game that no longer exists) 70-49.
“We played one of the toughest schedules in the country and I think it paid off tonight,” said McGrew, who finished with 150 yards rushing and the one score on 24 carries. “We were the more physical team in the second half. Our team needed to make a play in the end, and it was just a great feeling when I did that.”
Rosen completed 12-of-16 passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. His counterpart, Poly’s Josh Love, completed 8-of-17 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns and one costly interception before leaving the game in the third period after a hard hit. With 3:42 remaining in the second period, a bad read on a late throw led to an easy 35-yard interception return for a score by Bosco DB Mykal Tolliver. The extra point failed as Bosco went into the half leading 20-14.
Back-up QB Tevaka Salanoa-Tuioti did lead Long Beach Poly (11-2) on a 11-play, 92-yard drive in the third quarter capped by a 9-yard touchdown run by Jeremy Calhoun to give the Jackrabbits a 21-20 lead. Down the stretch, however, Poly’s offense sputtered and Bosco’s running game got stronger.
“We’re going to have to be prepared on offense because it’s going to be a high scoring game (versus Centennial),” Rosen said of next week’s CIFSS Pac-5 final.
Both teams also share a common opponent loss to unbeaten Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas, which is having its bid for a mythical national title helped immensely so far by results in Southern California. The Gaels handed Bosco its only loss 34-31 and also have a 43-42 win over Centennial. Centennial’s only other loss was to Mater Dei of Santa Ana, which was avenged in last week’s quarterfinals.
Ronnie Flores is the managing editor of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores