St. John Bosco of Bellflower makes it 3-for-3 in CIF Open Division state title game triumphs over De La Salle of Concord, but the Spartans hung around until a back-breaking 96-yard fumble return touchdown late in the fourth quarter of 49-28 contest. The CIF Southern Section also made it 3-for-3 on the day at Cerritos College as Corona del Mar of Newport Beach capped 16-0 season with victory over Serra of San Mateo plus Pacifica of Oxnard looked like an elite-level squad by rolling past McClymonds of Oakland. Go inside to see who was named MVP for each game (only one of them required much thought).
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It might have seemed pre-determined since the first preseason practices of the summer that the CIF Open Division state title — for the fourth straight season — would come down to the winner of the second matchup between national top two teams St. John Bosco of Bellflower and Mater Dei of Santa Ana from the south being considered a solid favorite to beat perennial Northern California powerhouse De La Salle of Concord.
While the Braves, as expected, did win the last game of the season in the state, 49-28, over the Spartans in the final of three games on the day at Cerritos College, it sure wasn’t boring. It was a shootout at many instances with De La Salle reaching deep into its bag of tricks and deep into its reservoir of grit and determination. The Spartans forced Bosco’s stars to play their best and quarterback D.J. Uigalelei did just that, along with his impressive corps of receivers.
“I was concerned the whole night,” said St. John Bosco head coach Jason Negro, who directed the program to previous state title triumphs over De La Salle in 2013 and 2016. “They kept coming back and coming back like we thought they would and I wasn’t comfortable at all until that ginormous play. I’m just proud of the effort by everyone.”
When asked about the probability of finishing No. 1 in just about every national ranking as a result of Saturday’s win (and of avenging the only loss to Mater Dei with that 39-34 victory over the Monarchs two weeks ago in the CIF Southern Section Division I final), Negro added: “Just speechless. To play the schedule that we did, and to win so many of our games late in the season by double-digits is pretty impressive.”
That ginormous play took place with just 3:27 left in the game. De La Salle had scored on its previous drive and had a first-and-goal from the Bosco 3-yard line, looking to trim a 42-28 deficit to perhaps 42-35 and had head coach Justin Alumbaugh pondering whether to go for an onside kick. He never had the chance. On a second-and-goal play from the 4-yard line, Bosco’s Jonathan Vaughns forced a fumble that senior teammate Matthew Jordan grabbed and ran back the other direction for a 96-yard touchdown. The Spartans were done and all that remained after that was what the final score would be. The Braves took two kneel-downs to end the game.
Jordan’s fumble return also will go down as the longest for a touchdown in any CIF state final since the event re-started in 2006. The previous record was 85 yards by Adam Remotto from Campolindo of Moraga, who ran one back 85 yards for a game-winning touchdown with 52 seconds left vs. El Capitan of Lakeside in the 2014 D3 final.
“That was the only time we put the ball on the ground and it came at the worst possible time,” said Alumbaugh, who directed the Spartans to back-to-back Open Division state titles in 2014 and 2015. “I thought those guys battled a great team and represented the school well. Everybody knew we were there and what we were trying to do. We didn’t come down here to win a ribbon. We’re disappointed.”
How the De La Salle defense would try to deal with Uigalelei’s size, strength, throwing talent and leadership was one of the biggest questions leading into the night. There were only occasional blitzes and when it did come the Bosco All-American had running lanes he used or on at least one play the defender hit him and just bounced off of him.
Uigalelei, last season’s State Junior of the Year, fired his first touchdown pass on Bosco’s first offensive series of the night on a 20-yard corner route to Kris Hutson. His other three touchdowns went to three different receivers, including a 71-yard bomb to Beaux Collins in the third quarter after De La Salle had briefly made it a one-score game. Uigalelei’s other scoring passes were to Vaughns (6 yards) and Logan Loya (12 yards).
“I did it tonight with the entire team, the entire coaching staff, everybody,” said Uigalelei, who will play next at Clemson. “We do it different at Bosco more than anywhere else. Just to come out here tonight and finish on top is just amazing.”
De La Salle (12-2) certainly played well enough to stay at No. 3 in the final state rankings behind St. John Bosco and Mater Dei. The Spartans also could still finish in the top 10 of most national rankings since their only other loss was to St. Thomas Aquinas of Florida, which finished unbeaten and earlier on Saturday won the Class 7A state championship in that state.
Junior quarterback Dorian Hale got Sparta on the board with a 10-yard run in the second quarter, but even though there was just 1:38 on the clock before halftime that was enough time for the Braves to go back down the field for a score. That was when Uigalelei found Vaughns on that 6-yard score.
De La Salle also fell to 7-7 in CIF state finals. The Spartans have been in the event every year of the modern state championships since 2006. They were 7-3 at one point and had won six Open Division state titles in seven years until the super teams at St. John Bosco and Mater Dei began coming on-line four years ago.
MVP: D.J. Uigalelei
His major competitor for all of the major national player of the year honors (and our own Mr. Football State Player of the Year selection), Mater Dei’s Bryce Young, was the MVP of this game last season. For this year, D.J. finished with 398 yards passing on 23 completions in 28 attempts. He also had four TD passes plus a team-best 64 yards rushing on five carries and one TD.
Counting all CIF state finals in all divisions, Uigalelei’s passing yards ranks No. 4 o the all-time list while his total offense of 462 yards will be No. 2 behind only the 474 yards by Folsom’s Kaiden Bennett in the 2017 Division 1-AA contest.
Loya, the transfer from Orange Lutheran, was Bosco’s leading receiver on the night with eight catches for 117 yards and one TD. He also was 6-for-6 as a kicker on PATs. Hutson had seven receptions for 133 yards while Collins ended with four for 102.
Hale made a name for himself for the Spartans, if some of the fans from Southern California weren’t familiar with him. He passed for 207 yards (15 of 29) and rushed 12 times for 54 yards and one TD. Garrett not only scored three times and rushed 13 times for 115 yards, he also caught four passes and was a demon on defense with 12 tackles.
Corona del Mar 35, Serra (San Mateo) 27
There were a couple of questions that just had to be asked of Corona del Mar quarterback Ethan Garbers after he finished the season with 71 touchdown passes for the 16-0 Sea Kings, who won their second CIF state title.
“Have you ever met Jake Browning?” was the first. That’s the former University of Washington quarterback who is the only player in California history along with Garbers (who will play next for the Huskies) to have thrown for 70 or more passes in one season.
“Yes, I have met him a few times,” Garbers said. “That’s just crazy to hear stuff like that.”
Browning actually went for more than 70 touchdowns twice, first with 75 in his junior season at Folsom (near Sacramento) in 2013 and then with his current state record of 91 as a senior in 2014. Garbers’ total is now third and also is the new record for Orange County and for the CIF Southern Section.
The second question was: “Who is your favorite quarterback (not counting his older brother, Chase, who plays at Cal)?
“Tom Brady,” said Garbers with no hesitation of the New England Patriots’ quarterback with an all-time best six Super Bowl titles. “Yes, I know he’s from Serra and that the school has a lot of tradition.”
Garbers and his No. 1 receiving target, John Humphreys, are helping to create a lot of tradition at Corona del Mar. This year’s 16-0 record actually is the second one for the Sea Kings. They had the first 16-0 team in state history in 2013, a record that was tied a few hours later by St. John Bosco and then several more times in recent years.
“No, it wasn’t so much being 16-0 again for this group,” said Humphreys, who will play next at Stanford. “The one goal was never to lose and every week to go out there and get better and better. Sometimes, it might not have been the cleanest win. But in this one we were good.”
Humphreys ironically also will go down in the top five in the Cal-Hi Sports state record book in a season touchdown category since he caught one more TD pass against the Padres to put his final total at 32. He had already set the state record for career touchdown catches coming into the game at 77 and put his final career total at 78. Humphreys caught 28 touchdown passes as a junior.
It wasn’t known before the start of Saturday’s game whether Humphreys would play. He had a hamstring injury that forced him out of the previous game against Oceanside and had been described as a “game time decision” during the days leading up to the state final. Humphreys was in on the first snap, but a bigger surprise was the appearance in the starting line-up by Serra quarterback Daylin McLemore. He last played for the Padres on October 26 when he suffered a broken collarbone injury and was thought to be lost for the season.
With McLemore playing (who has eight D1 offers), Serra began the game on fire, driving for an early touchdown capped by a 9-yard run by McLemore. The Padres couldn’t keep up that momentum, however, and at the same time had no answers to stop the Sea Kings.
With Garbers using his legs as much as his arm to pick up first downs, Corona del Mar scored on its first two series to take a 14-7 lead. The second of those scores came on a 6-yard TD pass from Garbers to Bradley Schlom, which was the one that pushed Garbers to 68 TDs for the season and moved him past the total of 67 by J.T. Daniels (Mater Dei 2017) and Anthony Munoz from Western of Anaheim (last season) for the CIFSS and Orange County records.
An interception by Serra’s Terence Loville and a fourth-down goal-line stand by the Padres helped the halftime deficit for them stand at just 14-7.
In the second half, Corona del Mar had the ball first and went right down the field for its third touchdown. Garbers capped that one with a 6-yard TD pass to Scott Guiliano. Serra answered right back on a 65-yard TD pass from Nate Sanchez on a trick play to Loville.
The real championship moments for the Sea Kings was the 99-yard drive that netted them their fourth touchdown. It was still a one-score game and a punt by McLemore had pinned them on their own 1-yard line. After missing on his first pass of that drive and facing a 3rd-and-6 from the 5-yard line, Garbers picked up a first down on a pass to his future Washington Huskies’ teammate, tight end Mark Redman, and then he dissected the Serra defense on six more completions, three to Schlom and a 30-yarder to Redman that almost went for a touchdown. Schlom then scored on a 1-yard shovel pass from Garbers.
Corona del Mar would later take a 35-14 lead on a 7-yard pass from Garbers to Humphreys with 5:12 left in the game. McLemore had to depart after a hard hit near the sidelines, but after some shaky moments sophomore quarterback Dominique Lampkin (who started in the teams’ CIF Central Coast Section and NorCal title game wins) got Serra a touchdown with 3:43 left on a 20-yard pass to Loville.
Serra made it more interesting in the game’s final moments by recovering an onside kick and then scoring again on a 30-yard pass from Lampkin to Matt Rollandi. The Padres didn’t get a second onside kick, but they did finally get a 3-and-out against the Corona del Mar offense.
Starting a potential game-tying drive from the 13-yard line, Lampkin used short passes and his legs to give the Padres a chance in the final seconds from the Sea Kings’ 20-yard line. A pass in the end zone was intercepted with nine seconds left by junior Tommy Griffin.
“They showed championship pedigree on that 99-yard drive,” said Serra head coach Patrick Walsh, who celebrated winning a state title in the D2-AA game two years ago at Sacramento State. “We saw some throws and some catches by them that you’ll only see on Sundays.
“Daylin showed he could play in the warm-ups. The fact that he did showed grit and was just such an inspiration to the entire community. I’d want that kid leading any team I have.”
Game MVP: Ethan Garbers
Although he passed for 255 yards and four touchdowns (28 of 41 attempts), it was the running that Garbers did on this night that was the major difference. He had 15 carries for 142 yards and one score. He made the correct decision to run to collect most of those yards because most of the time it seemed as if they were passing plays. Humphreys had 10 catches for 85 yards while Redman had eight for 93 and Schlom had eight for 59.
Loville had the most all-purpose yards in the game based on his six catches for 172 yards. He also was often in coverage situations on defense against Humphreys. McLemore finished 16 of 18 for 159 yards while Lampkin went 10 of 15 for 112 yards with the two late TDs.
Pacifica 34, McClymonds (Oakland) 6
Jumping up in divisions from 4A to 2A didn’t seem like it would be that much of a problem for the Warriors when they manhandled Manteca in last week’s NorCal regional final, but the green-and-white clad Tritons proved to be a much different breed than the green-and-white Buffaloes.
McClymonds, which had won three straight CIF state titles (D5A, D5AA and D4A), had its hopes dashed of joining De La Salle of Concord (2009 to 2012) and Central Catholic of Modesto (2012 to 2015) as the only schools in state history with four in a row.
In winning its first-ever state title, Pacifica executed its up-tempo offense at a degree that confounded the Warriors. And even though one of the team’s best players, two-way standout Michael Johnson, has been out of the playoffs with an injury, the Tritons also displayed the type of talent that had veteran Ventura County Star scribes Loren Ledin, Joe Curley and Derry Eads ranking them right up there with more well-known statewide programs like Grace Brethren (Simi Valley) and Camarillo.
“This shows we’re one of the best in the state,” said Pacifica senior quarterback R.J. Maria. “It was great to have the offensive line playing like they did today. And our playmakers? No one can stop them.”
Pacifica will climb from being behind Oxnard in the final state rankings due to that head-to-head loss but how high remains to be seen. The Tritons finished 15-1. McClymonds will likely drop out from the State Top 50 and had a final record of 11-1.
The McClymonds defense particularly had trouble with the Tritons’ up-tempo pace on offense. The Warriors were caught substituting players too late several times and were frequently out-of-position at the snap of the ball. Maria said that the team switched to a more no-huddle, up-tempo offense after the squad’s only loss of the year, which came in the regular season to arch-rival Oxnard High.
“My hat goes off to those guys,” said McClymonds head coach Michael Peters, referring to Pacifica. “It doesn’t matter what division they put us in. We just have to play better.
“I think our defense played well enough to win,” he continued. “I wouldn’t say we shot ourselves in the foot (on offense). I’d say we shot ourselves in both feet.”
The Tritons scored twice in the first quarter on touchdown passes from Maria to Kyrie Wilson and Nohl Williams. They added a 42-yard field goal in the second quarter from senior Scooter Carranza and then in the third quarter it was Carranza booting a 32-yard field goal.
Carranza would be the team’s most significant player from a state record standpoint. He’s the one who last week went past the reported state record of 152 consecutive PATs set in 2016 by Manny Berz from Citrus Hill of Perris only to have that streak end later in the game at 157.
It also was calculated, with major assistance from Derry Eads in the press box, that Pacifica as a team had moved up to seventh on the all-time state list for most points scored in a season with 784 in its 16 games. Two recent totals that had not yet been added to the Cal-Hi Sports website were 820 points by Linfield Christian (Temecula) from last season and 774 by Folsom (also for last season).
In the second half, Pacifica head coach Mike Moon and his son, Isaiah, got to experience the thrill of Isaiah scoring a touchdown in a state championship game. He did that on a 44-yard catch-and-run off of a pass from Maria. McClymonds avoided the shutout with 4:41 left in the game on a 30-yard fumble recovery touchdown by Arrion Hughes.
“This is great for our school spirit, but it’s even more great for the boys,” Mike Moon said. “I told them that I want you to have these memories and that I hope it prepares them for the rest of their lives. My goal is to be the first head coach in which all of his players become a millionaire.”
Game MVP: Brad Bichard
Unlike the Open Division and Division 1-A games, this MVP pick could have gone to several different players from the winning team. Bichard led the Tritons on defense with 14 tackles and three sacks and it was a defense that only allowed 112 yards, one of the lowest totals in any CIF state final ever played. Bichard also played a lot on offense as a blocking fullback, rushed for 26 yards on seven carries and even tried a pass. Maria threw for 185 yards and four touchdowns, Malik Sherrod rushed for 143 yards on 29 carries, Kyrie Wilson had two interceptions and a touchdown pass, and Arizona State committed linebacker Caleb McCullough had 10 tackles and three sacks.
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