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|Eagles Kick Cavaliers Out Of Playoffs And Their Psyche|
|Written by Mike Terry Sun Contributing Writer|
|Thursday, 12 December 2013 03:26|
Last Second Field Goal Gets Chaminade Its First Southern Section Title And A Rematch With Hart In State Regional
M. Terry / SFVS
Eager Eagles — Now that Chaminade has won its first ever Southern Section championship, seniors Brayden Lenius and Rick Gamboa and their teammates are taking aim at a state Division II title.
After more than 60 years of waiting, and seven weeks of soul-searching, Chaminade can call itself a football champion. Not only that, but a champion still playing football.
By outdueling Serra of Gardena, 38-35, to win the Southern Section's Western Division title, the Eagles (12-2) wereselected to play Hart of Valencia in the CIF state Division II South regional bowl game at College of the Canyons on Saturday, Dec. 14. The kickoff is scheduled at 7:30 p.m.
Adding to the interest: This is Chaminade's second rematch. Hart (12-2), the section Northern Division champion after beating Valencia 28-21 in the title game, is the only other team besides Serra to defeat Chaminade in 2013.
Hart won an electric 55-54 nonleague overtime shootout back on Sept. 6, then the second game of the season for both teams. Chaminade lost when it was stopped on a two-point conversion attempt.
"They are a great team," Chaminade Coach Ed Croson said of Hart. "They've got a lot of talent, a lot of seniors, a lot of great, experienced players. They got here for a reason. We have ton of respect for them."
But if there's one thing Croson- coached teams have traditionally excelled at, dating back to his years at Birmingham High, it's winning a rematch in the same season.
Serra (13-1) had blasted the Eagles 36-0 in their Mission League showdown on Oct. 18. On Friday it appeared the Cavaliers were going to do the same thing, taking a 28-14 halftime lead. But this time the Eagles put on their big-boy pants, and outscored the Cavaliers 13-7 in the third quarter and 11-0 in the fourth quarter, including a 27-yard field goal by Ben Kreitenberg as time expired to win the game.
"We were down at halftime. But at least we weren't going 'we can't score on these guys' in the locker room," Croson said. "We didn't have to make 'adjustments' per se; we just told them we had dropped some passes in the first half, and missed some opportunities. It was just talking to them about making those plays to be a champion.
"And before we went back on the field we reminded them we had scored 43 points in a quarter before. Being down 14 points was nothing. We were gonna play until the end."
It's almost a shame Chaminade doesn't get a bit more time to savor its first ever football championship. But as Croson points out, this is an opportunity to qualify for a state Division II championship game against the Northern California regional winner on Dec. 21. There will be plenty of time afterward to enjoy the section title.
"We want to play as long as we can, and we'll celebrate when it's all said and done," Croson said. "It's special to be the first team (to win a football championship). But we're really not thinking about that. We're not talking about it. We're telling the kids we'll celebrate at the end of the year, that's what the banquet's for.
"They've gotten past the hump for a ring, so they'll have a ring. And they'll have something to remember the rest of their lives. In the meantime, we're trying to make more memories."
The players, wisely, are taking their cues from the coach.
"Our goal at the beginning of the year was to win our last game," senior linebacker Rick Gamboa said. "It was a great thing (to win the Western Division title). But we still have another game, so we have to hold the celebration off because we have to get ready for the next game, which came up real fast."
Wide receiver Brayden Lenius, who caught six passes for 133 yards against Serra, said the comeback win reinforced the level of confidence that has been building at Chaminade since that Oct. 18 loss.
"We knew big plays were going to happen in the [Serra] game, back and forth," Lenius said. "When they scored we just put our heads down and kept going."
It will take a similar effort by the Eagles to beat Hart, Lenius said. "We have to play them like we played Serra. Play with confidence and come out with a win."
That's a distinct possibility for a Croson-coached team.