In possibly the last chance for a CIF North Coast Section Open Division runner-up team to win a CIF state title, Liberty of Brentwood makes the most of it with win against Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth on Saturday night at Cerritos College for the CIF D1-A state crown. Earlier at Cerritos, Lawndale captured its first state title in school history with a triumph against unbeaten San Joaquin Memorial of Fresno for the CIF D2-A state championship. We didn’t have the time to go through all of the other CIF state finals played on Saturday that closely but have all the results with some quick highlights and historical significance.
Note: Once we get done with travel back to our Stockton home base, we will go through each of the 14 CIF state finals and will have an MVP for each game. We have MVPs for every CIF state championship game since 2006.
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There were a lot of people represented by what the Liberty High football team of Brentwood accomplished on Saturday night at Cerritos College by winning the 116-year-old school its first-ever CIF state championship with a come-from-behind 19-17 victory against Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth.
There are all of the alums and former coaches of the school, ranging from 92-year-old Jack Ferrill of Stockton (who was a head coach in the 1960s with an undefeated team and then became the school’s principal) to former athletic director and current school district Hall of Fame board member Rodney Beaver, who was hugging players shortly after the final horn.
There were the seniors from last year’s team, which made some history of its own by winning the school’s first-ever CIF North Coast Section title, but did it in a division (Division I) in which the champion doesn’t get to go on to a CIF regional bowl game.
Then there are all the players from CIF North Coast Section Division I runner-up teams in the past 12 years since the advent of the new CIF state bowl games that most in the state never heard of or thought were very worthy because they have always been in the shadow of mega power Concord De La Salle.
In the last two years, though, the NCS Open Division runner-up team has been able to advance to the CIF bowl games. Pittsburg got its chance last year and lost in the CIF D1-A state final to Narbonne of Harbor City. It then was learned earlier this week that starting next year only CIF section title-winning teams will be eligible to play in regional/state bowl games. It doesn’t look like De La Salle is dropping off the map any time soon, so this Liberty team probably won in the last chance for a while that any second-best team in the NCS will have at winning a state title.
“I told the kids it’s a lifetime accomplishment,” said second-year Liberty head coach Ryan Partridge, who took over from previous coach Jeff Walters when he went back to take over the program at his alma-mater, Del Oro of Loomis (which lost on Friday in a state final to Grace Brethren of Simi Valley). “It’s so big for all of our fans and all of these people who came all the way down here from corn country.
“When I took things over two years ago, there were a lot of good pieces already here, and the culture was getting set as well.”
Sierra Canyon has a lot of good pieces in its arsenal as well, and for most of the night it looked like the Trailblazers were on their way to winning their third CIF state title. Their first came in 2011 in the Small Schools Division with the second coming two years ago in D2-A.
After building a 17-7 lead with 9:12 left in the third quarter on a 22-yard touchdown run by Brendon Gamble, the Trailblazers (12-4, ranked No. 13 in the Cal-Hi Sports State Top 50 coming in) got the ball back on an interception by sophomore D.J. Harvey. They had to punt after that, then stopped Liberty again, but on their next series coughed up the ball on a fumble at their own 31-yard line.
Instead of being down by more than 10 points, the recovered fumble energized the Lions (13-1, No. 14 in the state). On the second play after that recovery, senior Tyerell Sturges-Cofer broke loose for his second touchdown of the night on a 31-yard run and the game was back up for grabs at 17-13.
Sierra Canyon tried to extend its lead on its next series on a 36-yard field goal to start the fourth quarter, but sophomore Matt Bryan (who made one earlier) missed and that gave Liberty a chance to take the lead.
Liberty quarterback Jay Butterfield didn’t look like one of the state’s top juniors well into the third quarter and only had 17 yards passing at halftime. But with the opportunity in front of his team, Butterfield began throwing the ball perfectly. He hit senior Sione Vaki once and senior Adrik Lamar twice for first down conversions, including a 41-yarder to Lamar that put the ball at the 11-yard line.
On the next play, Sturges-Cofer went through a seam for an 11-yard touchdown and the Lions had their first lead of the night with 7:55 left in the game. The PAT was unsuccessful, however, so all that was needed for Sierra Canyon was a field goal and that third state title could have been headed to the San Fernando Valley instead of Contra Costa County.
The Trailblazers posted two first downs and moved across the Liberty 40-yard line. They got no further. On a fourth down play with 3:35 left, Gamble was tackled short by Vaki. The Lions still had a lot of time to kill on the clock, but a third down pass by Butterfield to Lamar and third down run by Sturges-Cofer put the cherry on top, preventing Sierra Canyon from even getting a desperation possibility.
“Yes, it says never give up,” Butterfield said of his frustrating outing up until the final quarter. “Always trust your receivers and keep throwing to them. You’ve got trust your defense, too, which really saved us tonight. And Tyerell was awesome.”
Having the type of balanced offense that the Lions did all season was a reason they got this far, with their only loss coming in the NCS Open championship 42-7 to state No. 3 De La Salle. Sturges-Cofer was the primary running threat and he led the way for Liberty with 21 carries for 192 yards. Butterfield was only 11 of 23 for 117 yards. Vaki, who has been the Lions’ best two-way player the past two seasons, caught five passes for 34 yards and he had 12 tackles. Linebacker Mason Padilla also picked up the slack for missing teammate Nicky Einess (leading tackler who was out with a concussion) with a team-high 14 tackles.
Sierra Canyon never did really get much production from its passing game, which was held to 75 yards and had sophomore QB Chayden Peery sacked four times (two on blitzes by Liberty cornerback Darrion Bartley). The Trailblazers had even a bit more success than the Lions with their running game as Gable finished with 23 carries for 176 yards while Gamble added 55 yards on 11 carries. Peery had Sierra Canyon’s only other touchdown on a 1-yard sneak in the first quarter.
Lawndale Puts Itself On
Title Map With D2-A Triumph
Two plays that went against the San Joaquin Memorial of Fresno football team is essentially all it took for the Panthers to come up short in their bid for their first-ever CIF state championship. Instead, Lawndale was the team celebrating its first-ever state title with a 20-12 victory in the D2-A state final on Saturday at Cerritos College.
The first play was a safety called against San Joaquin Memorial with 1:42 left in the third quarter when officials ruled that punter Daniel Flores had stepped out of bounds while trying to field a bad snap and get perhaps get a kick out of the end zone. Replays clearly showed, however, that Flores never stepped out of bounds.
The second play was more dramatic. That one came on fourth down from the 1-yard line with 11 seconds left in the game with the Panthers needing a touchdown and a two-point conversion to tie the score and force overtime. Quarterback Alec Trujillo tried to run it in himself, but had the ball knocked loose by Lawndale’s Rashad Sylvester. Trujillo grabbed the ball on the ground just in front of the goal line and then moved it across for what many fans thought was a touchdown. But officials called it a dead play before the ball crossed (which seemed correct to most on press row) and the Cardinals had survived.
Lawndale, which won the CIF Southern Section Division 5 title to get bowl eligible and was No. 19 in the state coming into the night, finished a 14-2 season. The Cardinals’ two losses were to Calabasas (ranked No. 17 in the state from the CIFSS D2 playoff grouping) and to Narbonne of Harbor City (ranked No. 12 and a loser by just 24-21 to CIF D1-AA state finalist Cathedral Catholic). They also had a 25-22 win early in the season against Sierra Canyon.
“No question, playing those teams helped us tonight,” said Lawndale head coach Travis Clark. “We knew we had to have a lot of preparation for their offense. If they can’t run the ball, they were going to be in trouble.
“This is a public school and we’re proud of what we’ve done without all of the amenities. We’re still a state champion.”
It also helped the Cardinals to have arguably the best running back in California in senior Jordan Wilmore. The USC-bound recruit had San Joaquin Memorial’s defense chasing a ghost in the first quarter on touchdown runs of 10 and 15 yards for an early 12-0 lead and then when it was time to grind out first downs in the fourth quarter Wilmore was doing that as well.
“He is one of the most incredible human beings you’ll ever be around,” Clark said of Wilmore, who ended with 29 carries for 220 yards. “He’s totally selfless for the team.”
San Joaquin Memorial, which advanced to Saturday’s game by topping Tulare 69-25 in the D2-A NorCal final that matched two 13-0 squads, ended 14-1. The Panthers were No. 37 in the Cal-Hi Sports State Top 50 but looked closer to their No. 30 computer ranking.
“It was a great game with two teams of different styles,” said SJM head coach Anthony Ghoston. “Our defense played unbelievable and got stops when we needed it.
“I just told the kids they had a great season and to keep their heads high.”
After that first quarter, the Panthers’ defense did indeed start to get stops and it only took one solid scoring drive in the second quarter to get SJM back into the game. That march only had to be 30 yards due to a shanked punt by the Cardinals, but ended on a 1-yard plunge by Trujillo.
With the score at 12-6, a good chunk of the third quarter consisted of a drive by Lawndale that began at the 4-yard line. The Cardinals got all the way down to the Panthers’ 12-yard line, but got no points to extend their lead due to an interception by SJM senior Leonard Glass.
Lawndale then got the safety on the Panthers’ next series, but was stopped on its ensuing possession. That set up SJM for its best drive of the game. A 54-yard pass from Trujillo to Glass set up a golden opportunity that was cashed in on a 12-yard TD from Trujillo to Mac Dalena. The Panthers couldn’t get a game-tying two-point conversion but they were only down 14-12 with 6:11 remaining in the game.
Lawndale answered primarily by giving the ball to Wilmore mixed in with passes by quarterback Jalon Daniels. It was Daniels who scored on a 16-yard keeper with 2:01 left that really put the Panthers in a tough spot. Even if the officials didn’t have the blown safety call, Daniels’ run would have given Lawndale an 18-12 lead. The Panthers still weren’t out of it, however, since the Cardinals couldn’t add a two-point conversion.
“Coming from our school we get the feeling we’re grinding it out all year and that everybody doubted us,” said Daniels, who had 14 carries for 82 yards and added 101 yards passing. “But it’s a great feeling. It’s heart-warming that we got to be out here, trusting our buddies and playing in a game like this.”
Statistically, it would have a heartbreak if Lawndale had lost. The Cardinals had 462 yards compared to San Joaquin Memorial’s 194, but five holding penalties put a crimp in several possible scoring drives. The Panthers were led by the San Jose State-bound Trujillo, who had 162 yards passing. Defensive leaders for the game were Lawndale’s Will Jacobs (12 tackles, three for loss) and SJM’s Mark Blocker (eight tackles, three for loss).
More CIF State Finals
D3-AA: Menlo-Atherton (Atherton) 21, Lincoln (San Diego) 7
Aisea Maaele was a 14-year-old freshman for the Bears two years ago who died from a disease three days after they lost in their first CIF state title appearance in D3-AA to Paraclete of Lancaster. This year’s team dedicated this title and this win over the Hornets (11-4*), who scored early on but didn’t get much after that against M-A’s vaunted defensive front. Deston Hawkins had 23 carries for 139 yards and one TD for the Bears, who ended 13-2.
D3-A: Wilcox (Santa Clara) 41, Kaiser (Fontana) 27
After losing to Menlo-Atherton in the CCS Open 1 title game, the Chargers (14-1) took advantage of their second life as a runner-up team (no section runner-ups will be eligible to play for CIF state titles starting next year) and beat the Kats. Gabe Herrera led Wilcox with 231 yards rushing and four TDs. Christian Hunter didn’t get to 4,000 yards rushing for Kaiser as he was limited to 204 yards on 27 carries. The Kats ended 14-2. It is the first state title for Wilcox and it’s the second year in a row that the CCS Open 1 runner-up has won a state title after Milpitas last season.
D4-A: McClymonds (Oakland) 32, Garfield (Los Angeles) 6
Jarmar Julien piled up 180 yards rushing on 22 carries and had one TD while Adi Anderson rushed for two scores as the Warriors dominated the L.A. City Section Open Division runner-up to earn their third straight CIF state crown. McClymonds (14-1) becomes the first public school in the modern era of the CIF state playoffs to win three state titles in a row. The overall record of four in a row is held jointly by De La Salle of Concord and Central Catholic of Modesto, both obviously private schools. Garfield finished its season at 13-2.
D5-AA: Rio Linda 38, San Gorgonio (San Bernardino) 35
The Spartans (12-4) tried to pull off a comeback win after QB Jordan Pachot threw his fourth TD pass of the night, but they never got the ball back as the host Knights (13-2) grabbed their first-ever CIF state crown. Rio Linda junior RB Cameron Skattebo was the star of the game with 29 carries for 396 yards and three TDs, including one TD run in which the Sacramento Bee’s Joe Davidson reported “that it appeared all 11 defenders had a hand on him.” Skattebo also broke the Sac-Joaquin Section yardage record with 3,553 yards (15 games) to go past the previous mark of 3,458 yards set in 1997 by Dixon’s John Bordenkircher (12 games).
D5-A; San Diego 21, Colfax 10
The Cavers (13-2*) ventured far from home to the Sierra Foothills off Interstate 80 to win their first state title and hand the Falcons (13-1) their first loss. San Diego High was founded in 1882 so when an old school like that finally wins a state title it’s quite historical. The school would have won a title way back in 1916 with a dominating team but chose not to play Bakersfield for the state title. Bakersfield was then awarded that title by a CIF board vote. San Diego High also is shown as the 1955 State Team of the Year by Cal-Hi Sports and its team from that season is still regarded as one of the best in the history of San Diego area prep football.
D6-AA: Hilmar 49, Strathmore 0
This was the only rout of the day, which the CIF’s competitive equity pairing strategy tries to avoid. The way that the Yellowjackets (13-2) played in their two previous games in which they blasted unbeaten teams Ripon Christian (57-14) and East Nicolaus (13-2), however, they’d have had to perhaps be two divisions higher to have been in a competitive game on this night. Hilmar also avenged a 53-52 loss in overtime to the Spartans from last season’s D6-AA play-in game, who went on to finish 16-0 and win a state title.
D6-A: Lincoln (San Francisco) 24, Orange Glen (Escondido) 13
Jovon Baker led the Mustangs (12-0*) to their first-ever CIF state title and the second straight crown won in this division by a San Francisco school. Baker’s 52-yard TD in the fourth quarter gave Lincoln a cushion. Orange Glen (10-4) got itself back into the game on a 98-yard kickoff return to start the second half by Moray Steward.