De La Salle of Concord is denied in its attempt to break state record for most state titles by a Lincoln of San Diego squad that won its first-ever crown in Friday’s CIF D1-AA championship. In the D2-AA state final, Mater Dei Catholic of Chula Vista wins its second in a row and prevents McClymonds of Oakland from winning its fifth.
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The third quarter was the charm for the Lincoln of San Diego football team for the second straight week in the CIF Division 1-AA state championship game that was played Friday night at Saddleback College.
Facing a De La Salle of Concord squad as steeped in football history as any school in California over the past 40 years, the Hornets scored three straight times in the third quarter to turn a 14-7 halftime deficit into a 28-14 lead and then held on in the fourth quarter to beat the Spartans, 33-28.
Lincoln (13-1 and No. 9 overall in the state coming into the game) went on an even more explosive 27-0 run in the third quarter of its Southern California regional final against Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth, which turned a game the Hornets were only leading 10-7 at halftime into a 37-14 triumph.
“For us to make it here and win is just awesome for the school,” said Lincoln head coach David Dunn, who would have been attending the graduation of his son, Daelyn, from Jackson State University this weekend had the Hornets not won the CIF San Diego Section Open Division title and then topped Sierra Canyon. “And to do it especially against such a great historical team like De La Salle makes it even better. We have so much respect for everything they do.”
While Lincoln won its first-ever CIF state title, De La Salle fell to 7-8 in all-time state finals’ appearances. It wasn’t that long ago when the Spartans were 7-2 and had won six times in seven years (2015). If they had won Friday, they would have surpassed Bakersfield for the school with the most CIF state football titles won on the field with eight. The Drillers won six titles in the 1920s before the state finals went out of existence from 1928 to 2006 and they added another one in the modern era. Bakersfield also has a CIF state title given to it by a committee in 1916 (not won on the field).
“There was just too much inconsistency and too many penalties,” said De La Salle head coach Justin Alumbaugh, who has been balancing the birth of a baby daughter from last week along with his football duties. “Some of those at the end just killed us.”
De La Salle’s final attempt to regain the lead in the final three minutes of the game was given a major boost with 1:56 left on a fourth down play in which sophomore QB Toa Faavae threw a deep ball down the sidelines to sophomore RB Derrick Blanche, who went up with a defender and came down with the ball for a 32-yard gain to the Lincoln 20-yard line. A holding penalty at that point, however, pushed the Spartans back 10 yards and then there were back-to-back sacks by Lincoln’s Munir Kassa that clinched the victory.
The Spartans had been put in catch-up mode earlier in the second half in that third quarter. Lincoln’s first of three TDs came on a 32-yard run by senior Roderick Robinson, who had been bottled up in the first half. De La Salle then had a fumble when Blanche was rocked on a massive hit by Lincoln’s Micah Valenzuela, which was followed by a 53-yard scoring drive. That drive ended on a 15-yard TD pass from K.J. Chatham to Corey Miller-Thompson. De La Salle then suffered an interception as Chris White came up with a ball that had been knocked loose and ran it back 47 yards. That set up a short 8-yard drive in which Robinson scored again from the 2-yard line and just like that Lincoln had gained control of the contest.
“We’ve been a second half team all year,” said Robinson, who is committed to Georgia. “We want to keep the pressure on. Our defense definitely got us going.”
“We saw that from last week and we talked about it,” Alumbaugh said. “That’s why I was so glad we scored just before halftime. Our offense and defense just couldn’t quite put it together tonight and we had to face a great player (Robinson).”
The touchdown that Alumbaugh was referring to was scored on a 6-yard run by Faavae with just four seconds left in the second quarter. He took a gamble to try to run for it on the play since there wouldn’t have been time for another play. Faavae also hit on a 45-yard pass to Journey McKoy to set up that touchdown.
Lincoln didn’t score its first touchdown of the game until there were 27 seconds left in the first half. That was on a 3-yard run by Robinson. That tied the score since De La Salle had already scored on a 67-yard run by Charles Greer with 3:53 left in the second quarter.
After Lincoln had taken its 28-14 lead, De La Salle answered with an 88-yard touchdown run by Faavae. It’s the longest run from scrimmage and the longest touchdown run since the CIF re-booted its football championships in 2006. It’s probably the longest ever, but there’s just no way to know for sure about games from the 1920s.
Robinson scored on his second 32-yard run of the night early in the fourth quarter following Faavae’s 88-yarder. De La Salle then scored on its next possession as well on a 39-yard TD pass from Faavae to Blanche.
With the score at 33-28, the Lincoln defense stopped the Spartans the first time they tried to drive for a go-ahead score thanks to a 15-yard loss on a running play in which Greer dropped a pitch. Lincoln couldn’t run out the clock from there, however, which gave De La Salle one more chance.
Robinson, a leading contender to be the Mr. Football State Player of the Year, finished with 22 carries for 222 yards. That’s 10 yards short of the total that Lucky Sutton had for Cathedral Catholic of San Diego when it beat Folsom last year in the D1-AA final. His four touchdowns, though, tied the state title game record.
“When the game is bigger, I am trying to play bigger,” said Robinson, who estimated he was about 50 percent of normal due to playing with a pulled hamstring. “You never know that it’s going to be your last snap, your last practice and your last game.”
Faavae led De La Salle with 133 yards rushing (two TDs) and 144 yards passing (one score). The Spartans ended their season at 10-4, but they still may finish top 10 in the state since Lincoln will be higher (at least eighth) and two of their other losses were in close games to Serra of San Mateo and Folsom (a loss later avenged).
Dunn said in what is now looking like a bizarre 14-7 loss to Alemany of Mission Hills (it ended up being the only loss in a 13-1 season) that quarterback Chatham went down with an ankle injury in the first quarter.
“Someone said after that game that we could win 12 in a row and this is where we could be,” he told the players. “Well, here we are.”
D2-AA: Mater Dei Catholic Defense
Shuts Down McClymonds of Oakland
BY CHUCK NAN, ORANGE COUNTY CORRESPONDENT
After staring the season with four consecutive losses, the Mater Dei Catholic of Chula Vista football team put together a string of 11 straight victories, which culminated on Friday at Saddleback College with a 26-18 victory over McClymonds of Oakland in the CIF D1-AA state championship. Its losses came at the hands of highly regarded Cathedral Catholic (San Diego), No. 16 Carlsbad, Red Mountain (Mesa, Arizona) and No. 9 Lincoln (San Diego).
MDC also becomes the first San Diego Section (SDS) school to win two consecutive state titles. In addition, the Crusaders are now knotted with Cathedral Catholic for the most state crowns form the SDS with three.
“It’s just the best feeling I’ve had in my life,” said UCLA-committed linebacker Tre Edwards, who was sensational not just in this year’s win against McClymonds but also in last year’s D2-AA triumph against Central Catholic of Modesto. “Yes, I love playing on a big stage and it just feels amazing.”
After traveling over 400 miles south, then No. 32 in the state McClymonds (Oakland) had a real stroke of luck that most teams can only dream of. As the Warriors faced No. 24 Mater Dei Catholic (Chula Vista), they took an early 6-0 lead just 10 seconds into the game. Ferrari Miller, Jr. picked off Dominic Nankil’s pass and returned it 39 yards for the score. The PAT was blocked and the score was 6-0. That lead would last for all of about six minutes, a luxury Mack would never experience again.
On its next possession, MDC put a drive together with the effective use of an occasional pass and the bulk of the work courtesy of back Anthony McMillan, Jr. In the red zone, Nankil executed an impressive play-action pass and connected with Surahz Buncom from 13 yards out. The conversion was good and the Crusaders took a 7-6 advantage as the first quarter ended.
MDC was driving once again when a tackle for loss, sack and penalty put the team out of touchdown territory, but within the reach of kicker Ricky Osuna’s leg, who converted from 36-yards out.
All throughout the first half, the Crusaders’ defense was keying on the Warriors’ potent running attack and consistently snuffed a backfield which came in averaging 13.2 yards per carry. At one point, Mack had more plays than yards gained, punted four times and registered zero first downs.
In the second half of the quarter, the Warriors muffed a punt which provided the Crusaders with good position at the the 48-yard line. Sensing that the Mack defense was getting winded, MDC looked to capitalize as the half wound down. The Warriors were able to stave off the attack and forced the Crusaders to settle for another field goal. Osuna was successful again, this time from 23 yards. After its final drive of the half stalled, Mack attempted a long field goal from 49 yards that was blocked. The teams headed to the locker room with MDC leading 13-6.
Mack, a team that is used to gaining rushing yards in chunks, with talented backs Miller and Jaivian Thomas, was unable to sustain any production. When Mack came out for the second half, it was obvious that head coach Michael Peters and staff made some adjustments which gave the team at least a chance at victory. This included increased tempo on offense and some short passes to the flat.
The Warriors were driving when a Deonte Faison pass to Miller unfortunately hit the umpire and ended a positive drive. MDC took over on downs and marched downfield — the big play being a reception by Rollin George. Two plays later, after a penalty, Nankil threw his second touchdown pass, a short three-yarder to Anthony Miller, Jr.
With half of the quarter still remaining, a rash of turnovers emerged for both schools. As Faison received solid protection, his pass downfield was intercepted by Paulo Aranalde who made a spectacular one-handed snag. On the very next play, the Crusaders gave the ball right back as Miller collected his second pick of the game. Three minutes later, Mack’s Redmani Alberti intercepted a Nankil pass and gave his team excellent field position in the red zone. Thomas slashed his way through the line, crossing the goal line for a four-yard score. Coach Peters elected to attempt the two-point conversion on a pass which was incomplete. The Warriors then attempted their first onside kick of the game which was unsuccessful and MDC took the ball at midfield as the quarter ended.
Mack seemed to gain some much needed energy as it held the Crusaders to start the fourth quarter and were able to drive 60 yards in three minutes and 40 seconds. Alberti caught a Faison pass and turned it into a 20-yard touchdown. With the score now 20-18, Peters had his troops go for two points once again, which failed. Another onside kick attempt also was not recovered by the Warriors, giving MDC the ball near midfield. The very next play saw a 51-yard halfback pass from Buncom to a wide open George for a score to put the Crusaders up 26-18 with less than eight minutes remaining. The conversion attempt failed.
The stout Crusader defense, led by Edwards, was able to hold Mack on its last two possessions with four minutes to go. The Warriors were driving for a possible game-tying score when time expired.
Throughout the evening, Nankil, who tossed three interceptions, demonstrated his ability to slither out of trouble several times with the defensive rush pressure offered by Mack. He finished the game 22-of-32 for 198 yards and two scores. His leaving receivers were Buncom with five receptions, 88 yards and two touchdowns. Jerry McClure had seven catches. McMillan had a huge game with 109 yards on 19 attempts (5.7 average). The Crusaders gained 394 yards of total offense.
The Crusaders defense came up huge as they held Mack to just 109 yards rushing and a 3.9 average per carry. This was a team that averaged 350 yards running and 450 overall. Chris Snyder and Nico Mosley had logged one interception. Edwards had 10 tackles.
The Warriors’ offense was led Faison, who was 14-of-31 passing for 150 yards and one touchdown. Alberti and Joshua Shanklin hauled in four passes each with Alberti scoring a touchdown. Thomas rushed far below his average as he collected just 80 yards and one score.
Those early losses came at the hands of highly regarded Cathedral Catholic (San Diego), No. 16 Carlsbad, Red Mountain (Mesa, Arizona) and No. 9 Lincoln (San Diego). There were some in San Diego who were expecting Mater Dei Catholic to be one of the top teams battling for the four-team Open Division playoffs, but those early losses essentially ended those hopes.
“Four games is not the whole season,” said victorious Crusaders’ head coach John Joyner. “But we had a lot of hype and usually we’re the underdog. We knew we still had league and our goal was still to be playing bonus football in December.”
Peters was asked to compare how his small team in numbers (25) did with its 34-6 loss to Pacifica of Oxnard in the CIF D2-A state final in 2019.
“We did play better than that,” said Peters, the 2018 State Coach of the Year after his team won its third straight state title. “But this year’s team did a lot more work than that team. We played a lot better in the second half tonight, and this is great competition (playing Pittsburg in the regular season) for us. We’re not even supposed to be here. I can’t ask for more than that.”
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