SAN FRANCISCO -
Much like its small midseason slump, Washington (San Francisco)
High School's football team made some clear, sound adjustments and rolled to an impressive 36-6 victory over Balboa (San Francisco)
in the 87th Turkey Day Game at Kezar Stadium on Thursday.
The Eagles (10-2) overcame a slow start and rode the talented legs of their deep running back stable and experienced offensive line to claim the school's ninth San Francisco Section title and first since 2003.
Second string running back Lajarie Mabrey rushed 11 times for 181 yards and a touchdown and two-point conversion, leading an offense that piled up 337 of its 379 total yards on the ground.
The defense, meanwhile, caused four turnovers, three of which the Eagles turned into touchdowns, all during 29-point surge during the second and third quarters after a sloppy and scoreless first quarter.
"We fixed our mistakes," Washington senior two-way lineman Kevin Liu said. "We fixed them today and we fixed them after losing to Mission."
That loss – 16-13 on Oct. 14 – cost the Eagles the Academic Athletic Association title but also propelled them to six straight wins to end the season.
"That woke us up," said Mabrey, who had a TD run of two yards, but set up other scores with jaunts of 65, 46 and 37 yards. "We really focused and worked much harder. Winning today is really satisfying."
It was a total team win with touchdowns from five different players, including tight end/linebacker LeVander Moore (3 catches, 42 yards, 12 tackles), Jeremy Jetton (17 carries, 108 yards), quarterback Aram Gevandian (1-yard run) and tailback Galen Hall (1-yard run).
Linebacker Calvin Lee also recovered a pair of fumbles, leading to scores.
Balboa (5-8), after its first Turkey Day win since 1984 and 10th overall, had productive days from running backs Greg Warren (14 carries, 95 yards), Christian Pulusian (11-58) and Sean Kately (64 total yards, 10 tackles).
"Just too many mistakes," said Balboa quarterback Kerati Apilakvanichakit, who threw a 2-yard TD pass to Andres Arellano at the end of the third quarter. "It was great getting here, but I wish I played better."
Apilakvanichakit, a tiny but effective 5-foot-4, 155-pound senior, avoided heavy pressure much of the day with his Fran Tarkenton scrambles all over the field. He came in with more than 2,100 yards passing and 27 touchdowns, but finished just 9 of 17 for 85 yards and one touchdowns.
"He's really challenging to defend against," Moore said. "We just focused on containing him and not letting him slip outside."
With Balboa threatening at the end of the half, Lee sacked Apilakvanichakit on the last play of the second quarter, forcing a fumble that Washington recovered. Then, after Balboa marched 43 yards to open the second half, another sack and fumble led to a Josh Kidd recovery. Mabrey ripped off a 46-yard run and Gevandian scored on a naked 1-yard QB keeper around the left side, making it 22-0.
When Washington recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, Jetton rattled off three straight runs for 14 yards, capped by a 1-yard plunge, making it 29-0 with 4:04 left in the third.
"We played a great urgency today," Washington coach Karl Finley said. "We played with a lot of hunger and really went after those loose balls."
Balboa showed its grit, coming right back with a 62-yard drive, capped with Apilakvanichakit's TD pass to Arellano to close the third quarter.
But Washington slammed the door with a tremendous 12-play, 80-yard drive - all on the ground - keyed by a 37-yard pop from Mabrey and finished off with a 1-yard TD run by Hall.
Fourth-year Washington coach Finley, whose team lost Turkey Day games in 2007 and 2008, said there was no special magic to the victory or late-season surge. "When you run, block and tackle better, good things are going to happen," he said. "That's been our ingredients the last two months."
One to savor, said Liu whose was called up to varsity in 2008 when Washington lost to Lincoln 36-14 in the title game.
"Thanksgiving dinner is going to taste a lot better today than two years ago," he said.
San Francisco Section Championship Washington 36, Balboa 6
Balboa 0 0 6 0 - 6
Washington 0 14 15 7 – 36Second quarter
W – Mabrey 2 run (Badi kick), 8:28
W – Moore 19 pass from Gevandian (Badi kick), 2:02Third quarter
W – Gevandian 1 run (Mabrey run), 1:03
W – Jetton 1 run (Badi kick), 1:28
B – Arellano 2 pass from Apilakvanichaki (pass failed), :03Fourth quarter
W – Hall 1 run (Badi kick), 6:33RUSHINGBalboa:
Warren 14-95, Pulusian 11-58, Kately 3-40, Best 2-18, Apilakvanichaki 8-(-25) (team: 38-188). Washington:
Mabrey 11-181, Jetton 17-108, Hall 7-39, Chen 2-8, Gevandian 1-1, Jackson 1-(-3). Team total: 39-337.PASSINGBalboa:
Apilakvanichaki 9-17-1-85, Pulusian 1-1-0-6. Team: 10-18-1-91. Washington:
Arrelano 4-30, Musalam 2-25, Kately 2-24, Pulusian 2-12. Washington:
Moore 3-42-1.Total yards:
Balboa 279, Washington 379. First downs:
Balboa 17, Washington 19. Fumbles/lost:
Balboa 3/3, Washington 0/0. Time of possession:
Balboa 24:32, Washington 23:28.
Nation's Top 10 Thanksgiving Day rivalry story