GARDENA, Calif. – Serra has built a tradition of winning in recent years. That new found tradition may have been taken for granted last year head coach Scott Altenberg says.
As the No. 1 seed in the Western Division a season ago, the Cavaliers were unable to make it out of the first round, getting upset by Culver City. It was the equivalent of a No. 16 knocking off a No. 1 in the NCAA Tournament.
On Friday, the Cavaliers found themselves back in a sectional final for the fourth time in five years.
There would be nothing to take for granted this time around against a team that snapped their 27-game winning streak in league play earlier this season.
The Eagles were one of two teams on the season that claimed a victory against Serra.
Friday night, the Cavs (12-2) avenged an early season loss to defeat Chaminade (12-2) 30-28 to capture their third CIF title in four years.
“It’s something else,” head coach Scott Altenberg said. “I think our guys just thought we were going to go (to the finals) last year. Now we’re there. Now we got the win. It’s huge.”
The Eagles didn’t make it easy on them by any means.
Although the teams were knotted 14-14 at halftime, the Serra offense was held scoreless in the first half for the first time this season.
Cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, who also punts, got the Cavs on the board in the first quarter on a fake punt. He took the snap and took off for a 43-yard touchdown to give Serra a 7-0 lead.
This would turn out to be a night in which all the stars showed up.
Jackson’s touchdown was answered by a Terrell Newby 24-yard touchdown run to tie the score 7-7.
Chaminade quarterback Brad Kaaya entered the game having not thrown an interception all season but was picked off twice on Friday night, both times by linebacker Dwight Williams.
The first was returned for a score to put Serra up 14-7 in the second quarter.
Chaminade’s other lightning rod, Donovan Lee, took a chance later in the quarter and it paid off.
Lee came up and fielded a Jackson punt on a hop in between a couple of blue jerseys of Serra. Once he corralled the football, he was off to the races for an 82-yard score to tie the game, 14-14.
It was then Newby’s turn again in the second half. He gave Chaminade their first lead of the night on a 29-yard touchdown run, pushing the Eagles ahead 21-17.
Newby’s two touchdowns on the night gave him 105 for his career passing former Birmingham running back Milton Knox for most in a career in the San Fernando Valley.
However, a future star of Serra took over. Sophomore tailback Malik Roberson rushed for two second half touchdowns to push the Cavaliers ahead for good. One run was from nine yards out and the other from a yard away.
Roberson finished the game with 79 yards on 19 carries.
“I felt like I needed to step up and hopefully I did,” Roberson said.
The offense definitely needed a jolt. When they went into the locker room at halftime, it was gut check time for the offense. They looked at each other knowing they weren’t upholding the tradition of the dominant Serra offenses of the past.
“The defense had been playing great the whole night,” said Serra quarterback Jalen Greene. “We didn’t want another loss to be on us so we just had to get it done offensively.”
The Eagles pulled to within two on a Kaaya touchdown pass to Elijah Dunston with 58 seconds remaining.
The Eagles then tried and recovered an onside kick. However, the ruling on the field was illegal touching against Chaminade signing that the ball didn’t travel 10 yards.
The Chaminade fans in attendance booed ferociously after the ruling on the field negated the onside recovery.
Chaminade head coach Ed Croson was shown a picture of the recovery afterwards that appeared to show the ball being recovered beyond the 10-yard mark.
“That’s the way it goes,” he said. “Hey, nobody’s perfect. I’m not perfect. I’m not going to blame it on the officials.”