The Open Division state bowl game lived up to its billing and saw De La Salle's 40 game win streak and four time state title run come to an end in a 20-14 loss to St. John Bosco. How did the Braves complete a Saturday sweep for Southern California?
"Those guys are a really, really good team," De La Salle head coach Justin Alumbaugh said at the start of his post-game interview.
In an evenly matched game at all levels, it was the play of junior quarterback Josh Rosen and sophomore running back Sean McGrew which proved to be the difference for the Braves. Rosen confidently directed the attack and went 12-for-17 for 200 yards and two touchdowns. He added 50 rushing yards with a keeper late in the game to seal it away. The 5-foot-7 McGrew toted the ball 24 times for 143 yards in continually taking advantage of De La Salle's defense being spread out.
The play of the night though came with less than a minute left in the first half. Leading 10-7, the Braves got a seven yard touchdown pass from Rosen to Jaleel Wadood to push the lead to 10 going into the locker room. They started with the ball in the third quarter and proceeded to win the field position battle for much of the second half.
De La Salle's offense had a spark in the fourth quarter when Chris Williams connected with Marquis Morris for a 49 yard touchdown pass to make it 20-14 with 6:27 left. The Spartans were able to move the ball on the ground at points, but it was hard fought. John Velasco finished with 93 yards and Andrew Hernandez had 57 yards filling in for the injured sophomore Antoine Custer, who could have been an x-factor for the Spartans.
"We just made too many mistakes. We couldn't protect the quarterback. That first half, a couple of mistakes killed us," Alumbaugh said. "We played hard. We fought hard. We just didn't play well."
The Spartans graduate potentially six Division I bound players, but the talent remains strong. Kahlil McKenzie made his case as one of the top defensive lineman in the state. De La Salle also returns versatile talents Simba Short and Devin Asiasi among others.
Chaminade cruises to D2 state title
Enterprise rolled through section play. It went on the road to beat Manteca in the NorCal Division II finals for its 17th straight win. However, the end result Saturday wasn't unexpected as the explosive Chaminade Eagles beat the Hornets 41-9 for the school's first state bowl win.
Relying on power running and strong line play, Enterprise ended the first quarter in a 3-3 deadlock. However, that is when they lost control of the game. Brayden Lenius made a great move on the outside and Brad Kaaya found him for a nine yard touchdown. Donovan Lee chipped in a nine touchdown run and later added the first of his three interceptions. He took it 19 yards for a 24-3 halftime advantage that never came into question.
What does the result mean for Enterprise? The Hornets were one of the strongest if not strongest teams to come out of the Northern Section in the last decade and have a physicality to compete out of the section. The Northern Section continues to gain traction around the state and will continue to do so in the bowl system. There is a talent gap, highlighted by the Division II discrepancies between NorCal and SoCal, and that gap appears ready to stay for the Northern Section.
"I think that is the thing these young men wanted to prove. We play good football up in the North," Enterprise head coach Darren Trueblood said. "Tonight, we ran up against a team with a lot of talent and a lot of speed and they made us pay every time we made a mistake."
The list of stars for the Eagles starts with Kaaya, a Miami quarterback commit. He was an efficient 17-for-23 for 276 yards and two touchdowns. Donovan Lee had 73 yards of offense, a rushing touchdown and a defensive score. The defensive had eight tackles for loss and forced four turnovers.
Isaiah Matthews had 29 carries for 182 yards. The Hornets were outgained by only 27 yards, but four turnovers keyed a Division II rout.
Turnovers doom Sacred Heart Prep
The Gators had 16 turnovers in their first 14 games. They committed four on Saturday in a 27-15 loss to Corona del Mar in the Division III state bowl game. The Sea Kings became the first team in the state to finish with a 16-0 record.
"Nobody would have given us much chance at the beginning of the year considering we lost 21 seniors. At our school, there are just under 300 boys," Sacred Heart Prep head coach Pete Lavorato said. "We only had eight guys coming back. For me, those seniors did such a tremendous job playing and are tremendous leaders.
The game couldn't have started worse for Sacred Heart Prep (13-2) with the Sea Kings going 75 yards on its first drive and then taking advantage of a botched punt play for a 29 yard scoring drive. Up 14-0 less than nine minutes in, Barrett Barbato jumped a ball in the flat for a 58 yard interception return to put Corona del Mar up 21-0 before the end of the first quarter.
Corona del Mar's fast start through the air with Luke Napolitano was short-lived. Following a 6-for-7 start with two scores, he went 1-for-2 the rest of the game for six yards and two interceptions. What they couldn't get in the air, the Sea Kings found on the ground. They finished with 266 yards led by 155 from junior Cole Martin. 169 of the team yards came in the second half.
After running for just 23 yards in the first quarter, Sacred Heart Prep finished with 181 yards led by standout junior Ben Burr-Kirven (77 yards, touchdown). He had a highlight 47 yard touchdown run breaking into the open field and making people miss. On defense, he added 16 tackles with a forced fumble.
Senior Andrew Serge had 54 yards and finished just shy of 1,500 yards on the year while playing through a separated shoulder that came loose on a red zone fumble.
The fumble was one of three in the second half for the Gators with two coming in Sea Kings' territory. Missed opportunities, which include a turnover on downs in the red zone, doomed the Gators' comeback bid. After getting it to 21-15 at halftime, they were shutout in the second half.
"It seemed like we would get down close to their end and do something whether it was a penalty or a turnover. We haven't turned the ball over much all year. I just told kids sometimes in life, things don't go your way," Lavorato said.