Centennial of Corona claims its ninth overall section title and its first in the vaunted CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division in its first season in the division with a 48-41 victory over state No. 1 St. John Bosco late Saturday night before 11,596 fans at Anaheim Stadium. The victory not only knocked off the state’s top ranked team and prevents a Bosco-De La Salle CIF Open Division title game rematch, it likely sets up the fourth CIF state bowl meeting between Centennial and the Spartans. Mission Viejo also claims section title on Saturday afternoon.
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Matt Logan has built the Centennial of Corona football program into one of the state’s very best over the past decade, but some detractors pointed out he racked up section titles outside the CIF Southern Section’s most powerful division — the Pac-5.
When the 2014 season began, long-time followers of the program felt this may have been Centennial’s weakest club, talent-wise, over the last 10 years. Satuday night, Logan silenced any remaining critics by capturing his ninth section title. It likely was one of his most satisfying as Centennial defeated St. John Bosco, the state’s top-ranked team, 48-41, to win the Pac-5 title in the program’s first year in the division.
“It’s unreal (to win Pac-5),” an elated Logan said afterwards. “We’ve been a school since 1993 and I went through all of the accomplishments with the team and this finish was unbelievable. To win the Pac-5 in our first year is just unreal. This was our biggest margin of victory in the playoffs. That’s how tough it is.”Another example of how strong the Pac-5 was this season is that Alemany of Mission Hills (which did not make the playoffs) posted a win early in the season over Eastlake Catholic of Washington, which ended Bellevue’s 67-game win streak on Friday night.
Centennial, a public school in Riverside County, made it through the Pac-5 gauntlet by defeating four private schools by close margins and by overcoming some untimely injuries. Starting RB J.J. Taylor was lost to an appendectomy before the quarterfinal victory over Mater Dei of Santa Ana, but his back-up, Sammonte Bonner, has more than filled the void. He led the offensive charge versus St. John Bosco with 227 yards rushing on 43 carries to go with four touchdowns.
WR Javon McKinley, who like Bonner is a junior, had another monster playoff outing versus the Braves. He finished with 13 receptions for 152 yards and a touchown. McKinley has nine receiving touchdowns, 10 total, in four playoff games.
Centennial becomes the first Inland Empire program to capture the Southern Section’s major division title since Eisenhower of Rialto’s 1993 State Team of the Year. This year’s Huskies are the first team from Riverside County to win in the division since Poly of Riverside in 1984.
With Saturday’s victory, Centennial also is going to make its sixth CIF bowl playoff appearance, having been selected for a state or regional bowl game in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, and last season.
Centennial was able to avenge its season-opening loss to Mater Dei and its second loss came against Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas, which wrapped up another Nevada state title and likely the nation’s No. 1 ranking on Saturday afternoon. Centennial even had a chance to win that game before coming up short on a two-point conversion and falling 43-42.
“It started off with the Orange Lutheran game,” said Logan, whose coached all of Centennial’s nine section title-winning teams and all since 2000. “Then we showed 100 percent that we could play anyone because they are the No. 1 team in the nation. It just showed we could play with anybody.”
With its resume, Centennial will likely be selected Sunday in the open division bowl game versus a familiar foe — De La Salle of Concord. Centennial is 1-2 vs. De La Salle in bowl games, but in all of those games (2007, 2008, 2012) the retired Bob Ladouceur was the Spartans’ head coach. If both teams are selected to play in the open division state title game this time, it will be Logan’s first matchup with Justin Alumbaugh and both teams would have next week off as the CIF decided to do away with the open division regional bowl game beginning this season. Last season, Centennial lost to St. John Bosco in the SoCal open division regional bowl game after winning the CIFSS Inland Division title.
“That’s huge, especially coming from this division and the games we’ve had,” Logan said of having a week off. “Sure, it’s going to be nice. And we’ll get J.J. (Taylor) back. We’re excited about the opportunity.”
The opportunity didn’t come easily as St. John Bosco, ranked No. 1 in the state since the preseason, made a valiant comeback after Bonner’s fourth touchdown, a seven yard scamper with 5:42 remaining in the third quarter, gave the Huskies a 41-20 lead. Bosco got back in the game on a one-yard touchdown run by Cliff Sims and a 60-yard touchdown pass from QB Josh Rosen (16-of-27, 270 yards, 2 TDs) to Jared Harrell one minute and 10 seconds apart late in the third quarter. Those plays made the score 41-34 entering the final period.
The big play of the final period came when Centennial sophomore DL Seleti Fevaleaki intercepted a Rosen middle screen pass attempt deep in Bosco territory. He rumbled a few yards with it down to the seven-yard line. Centennial immediately capatalized on the turnover with a seven-yard touchdown run by QB Anthony Catalano that turned out to be the game-winning score. Catalano’s touchdown came with 8:03 remaining in the game and Bosco did score one more time. The Braves, however, were unable to force a punt or turnover on downs on the Huskies’ last drive as the bowl-bound team was able to run out the clock.
Mission Viejo Wins, Likely Out of Bowl Picture
With no true bracket style CIF state playoff system in football, the notion that every game counts for a section championship team rings true. It looks like two early, back-to-back losses by Mission Viejo will keep the team out of the SoCal Division I regional game despite an impressive performance in a 21-10 victory over Vista Murrieta in the CIFSS West Valley Division title game Saturday afternoon at Anaheim Stadium.
Mission Viejo (presumably) ended its season with 12 consecutive wins, as QB Brock Johnson completed nine of 11 passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns, both to Connor Hill, in the victory over Vista Murrieta. Johnson is the grandson of longtime Mission Viejo coach Bob Johnson. With Saturday afternoon’s victory, Mission Viejo also won the program’s sixth section title, with Johnson winning his seventh overall, including his time at El Toro High School.
The Diablos began their season 0-2, losing the first game 18-7 to CIF Central Section Division I runner-up Liberty of Bakersfield and the second 24-7 to still unbeaten CIF San Diego Section Open Division champion Oceanside. Mission Viejo is lately playing its best football of the season, but it looks like the results of those two games will keep Johnson from his first CIF state bowl game appearance, as Edison of Fresno defeated Liberty on Friday night in the Central Section title game.
“Sure, we’re a different team now, but they beat us,” Bob Johnson said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever lost two in a row, but did then. Other than that, I just never think about it. For our goals, it’s always been league, then CIF. Just don’t know about that state stuff.”
Saturday’s victory over Vista Murrieta was still special for the Johnson family. The team displayed improvement over the course of the season and Bob Johnson’s sons are on his staff. Former NFL quarterback Rob Johnson is an assistant coach and Bret Johnson, the 1987 Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Football State Player of the Year and the father of Brock, is the offensive coordinator.
“This was as special as it gets,” Bob Johnson said about his seventh CIFSS title. “My wife (Debbie) has been with us every game. Brett and Rob were here and Rob was as excited as all of us and he has a Super Bowl ring.”
Mission Viejo beat Vista Murrieta on both sides of the ball and at the line of scrimmage. Brock Johnson’s second touchdown pass to Hill, a 28-yarder, with 3:45 remaining in the third quarter gave Mission Viejo a 21-3 lead and all but sealed the game. Hill finished with three receptions for 72 yards and the two scores. RB Rome Innocenzi rushed for 134 yards on 27 carries and one touchdown for Mission Viejo.
Mission Viejo out-gained the Broncos 300-160 in total yards from scrimmage. Vista Murrieta didn’t go over the century mark until after the game was basically decided.
“We just beat them on both sides of the ball,” Bob Johnson said. “We could say it was Brock thing or a Rome (Innocenzi) thing, but it was just a team thing.”