Video: CIF Southern Section record 86 points in first halfANAHEIM, Calif. --
America's No. 1 high school football team has shown all year that it can play offense at a prolific level. And St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.)
has also shown week after week that it can play outstanding defense and make plays on special teams.
The one thing the Braves don't play well is catch-up.
No. 2 Centennial (Corona, Calif.)
put the Braves in catch-up mode right from the beginning Saturday at Angel Stadium, relentlessly piling up points in the first half on the way to a 62-52 victory. While the announcement won't be made official until Sunday, there isn't a realistic situation that doesn't have the Huskies facing De La Salle (Concord, Calif.)
for the California Open Division title in two weeks.
"Every time we got a big play and scored, they would answer right away, and that was demoralizing," said St. John Bosco head coach Jason Negro. "We hadn't experienced (trailing) too often over three or four years, except
for this game last year. It was deja vu. We were chasing points all night
and we couldn't get the timely stops we needed."
It's a familiar feeling for coaches who have gone up against Centennial's Matt Logan, who won his 10th CIF section title. His squad played a first half that was barely short of perfect. The Huskies racked up 55 points and 460 yards of total offense just in the first 24 minutes and they finished the night with no turnovers, two punts and three turnovers on downs.
The rest? Nothing but touchdowns. Nine of them.
Arizona commit J.J. Taylor
tallied five of those scores on the ground, and finished his night with 41 carries for 269 yards.
"Honestly, I don't care about the stats or TV. I'm just happy we got the win," he said after a night that saw him rip off scoring runs of 21, 8, 2, 65 and 8 yards.
Sure, the offense did what it usually does, as Centennial finished the night with 624 yards of total offense. But it was the opportunistic defense that really gave the Huskies the upper hand early on and forced the Braves to do something they haven't done all season long - play from behind.
"It was kind of shocking. We've never really been in a situation where we were
playing from behind like that," five-star tackle Wyatt Davis
said. "We didn't finish. Next year we have to come back and finish."
The Centennial defense managed to pick off Quentin Davis
twice in the first quarter - the same number of interceptions that the Bosco quarterback had racked up in 13 previous contests this season. Each one was turned into a touchdown by the Huskies, changing a 7-7 game into a 20-7 contest. Then things went from bad to worse for the Braves when Davis left the game with a shoulder injury, forcing sophomore Re-Al Mitchell
to come off the bench and lead the team.
forced a fumble by Sean McGrew
on the second offensive play of the second quarter and the Huskies turned that into a 34-10 lead thanks to a miraculous Taylor touchdown. And later in the third quarter, while leading 55-38, Centennial picked off Mitchell.
"Once they realized they were down and had to catch back up, their pace got a little faster," said Brumbaugh, a senior linebacker. "Our defensive line, even though they are undersized, they don't lay down for anyone. They don't get enough credit for what they do."
It wouldn't be a Centennial offensive highlight without star receiver Javon Mckinley
making things happen. He did it in the usual way with seven catches for 132 yards and a score, along with an unconventional way, as he was part of a double pass play that saw him hit Cameron Jackson
for a 65-yard scoring pass late in the second quarter that made it 48-24. Jackson finished with two scores and 122 yards on three grabs, and quarterback Anthony Catalano
tossed three scores as part of an 11-for-18 day with 225 yards.
For all their success in the first half, the Huskies found some turbulence early in the second half. Their first two possessions ended in punts and it started to bring up memories of last year's Pac-5 title game where Centennial allowed Bosco to score 20 unanswered points in the third quarter to get back in the game, though they still won the game.
"As soon as we had those two three-and-outs, I was like 'uh oh.' We
discussed that at length at halftime. Talked about last year how what happened in this
game and that we needed a better second half," Logan said. "The defense played well this year. They got us the ball and gave us field position early. I was worried about the lack of size on both lines and we handled that well. It was pretty happy with that."
Bosco did hold Centennial to seven points in the second half. And McGrew was his usual solid self, as the Washington commit ran 24 times for 196 yard and three touchdowns.
"We know we can put points on the board at any given time on any given play. It
was business as usual because we knew we could score fast," McGrew said.
"Unfortunately we had too many turnovers and put the defense in a bad position.
We just didn't come out and play tonight."
And they won't be playing again this season. Centennial, on the other hand, will likely be heading to Sacramento for yet another date with De La Salle, a team that Centennial has gone 1-3 against in state championship bowl games. The Huskies may go in as the No. 1 team in the nation, so it will be yet another contest with a national title possibly hanging in the balance.
"It's been a different kind of team for us. Being ranked high from the get-go was different. But definitely this is one of the best," Logan said.