Oh how Servite (Anaheim, Calif.)
was so looking forward to a return date to the Home Depot Center.
After a stunning season-ending 24-20 Southern Section Pac-5 Division defeat to Tesoro (Rancho Santa Margarita)
, Servite will just be staying home.
Stunning not only because Southern California's top-ranked team won't win the Pac-5 after two straight titles or that it won't be going back to a State Bowl game at the Home Depot Center.
What's truly jarring is how Servite lost – giving up 21 unanswered points in the second half. To a team that entered 7-4, with three of those losses by a combined 75 points.
"This feels like a dream," Tesoro senior running back Blake Rodgers
told the Orange County Register
. "It's crazy."
Rodgers scored the game-winning touchdown on a wild 52-yard run midway though the fourth quarter to complete an unlikely comeback.
Servite (10-2), winners of nine straight Southern Section playoff games, led 20-3 following a 24-yard fumble return for touchdown by lineman Jherremya Leuta-Douyere
Rodgers cut the lead to 20-10 on a 3-yard TD run. Jay Perez picked up a Servite fumble and returned it 20 yards for another Tesoro score, cutting the lead to 20-17.
Then Rodgers delivered the final blow.
Tesoro's defense had to come up big late, however, with interceptions from Nick Crouch and Michael McQueen.
"This is probably the biggest victory in our school's history, Tesoro coach Brian Barnes told the Orange County Register. "Nobody gave us an opportunity besides the kids here, our coaches and our Tesoro fans."
It was a bitter defeat for Servite, which lost in last year's Open Division bowl game to De La Salle 48-8. Servite vowed to learn from the humbling loss and appeared on a collision course to meet up with De La Salle again.
But now the front-runner in Southern California for the Open Division spot clearly is Westlake (Westlake Village)
, No. 13 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 national rankings presented by the Army National guard.
Servite wasn't ranked in the Xcellent 25 but it was No. 20 in the MaxPreps Freeman computer rankings.
As usual, Servite, which got early touchdowns runs from Charlie Etiaki
and Cody Pittman
, was classy in defeat and offered no excuses.
"I'm really proud of our team and our school and how we represent," Servite coach Troy Thomas told the newspaper. "These guys have had a target on their backs all year long and have responded. We just came up a little short tonight."Southern Section Pac-5 bracket