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Three Final Acts PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Terry Contributing Writer   
Thursday, 05 December 2013 04:46

San Fernando, Chaminade And Poly All Hope To Bring Football Championship Trophies Home This Weekend

M. Terry / SFVS

Going For Two — Defending City D-II champion San Fernando, seen here celebrating last year's title win over Canoga Park, try to win a second title on Friday, Dec. 6, against South Gate. Kickoff is 4 p.m. at East Los Angeles College.

Championship Week, Valley style, is upon us.

San Fernando and Poly are chasing Los Angeles City Section championships, while Chaminade is again pursuing its first Southern Section title.

San Fernando (13- 0) will play South Gate (8-5) for the City Division II championship on Friday, Dec. 6, at East Los Angeles College. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.; the City Division I game between Crenshaw of Los Angeles and two-time defending champion Narbonne of Harbor City follows at approximately 7 p.m.

Chaminade (11-2) also lights up Friday night, getting another final shot against Serra of Gardena (13-0), the defending Western Division champion. The game will be played at Serra High at 7 p.m.

Poly (9-4) meets View Park of Los Angeles (13-0, including two wins by forfeit) for the City Division III championship at Birmingham High on Saturday, Dec. 7, at 1 p.m.

While all three Valley teams are pursing the same goal, each has a different story line for their respective championship game.

M. Terry / SFVS

Jewelry Hunt—San Fernando's Cris Solano (left) has what Chaminade's Donovan Lee (middle right) and Poly's Deshonte Jones (right) are pursing this weekend -- a football championship ring.

San Fernando vs. South Gate

San Fernando is the defending City Division II champion, and is trying to win back-to-back City titles for the first time since 1974-75. The Tigers have won 17 consecutive games, dating back to Nov. 9, 2012, the start of last year's playoffs. This postseason they have beaten Bell, Verdugo Hills and Chatsworth to reach Friday's final.

Last year San Fernando overwhelmed South Gate in the quarterfinals, 55-27. But Head Coach Robert Garcia, in his second year, said his team would not come into the game flat and overconfident.

"At any level, from high school to professional, it's hard to repeat," Garcia said. "You have the pressure now, and everything that goes with it. But this team has done a great job to block those things out, from going to class and being eligible.

"This is a good group. A lot of people don't understand the kind of players I have. They're not players who had it all, they've had to work for everything they've got. They had to learn how to tackle, learn how to catch. For me, it's pleasing because we (the coaches) are the ones teaching them to do everything. I only have 10 guys who played Pop Warner."

The Tigers are led by senior quarterback Cris Solano, 17, who shattered his own school record for passing by throwing for 3,870 yards and 42 touchdowns against five interceptions. Solano, who is drawing scholarship interest from Nevada and New Mexico among others, said he and his teammates have learned their lessons well from winning last year's title game against Canoga Park.

"I've been there (to a championship game) before. I know what it takes to get there and what it takes to win," Solano said. "We do not take opponents lightly; we want to come out strong, have an intense offense and defense, and succeed on the plays we need to do."

"The feeling is amazing, man, getting back to the final. But if we don't finish, there's no point in it. We're right there; we can touch the peak of the mountain. We just need to finish."

South Gate, which has defeated Lincoln of Los Angeles, Eagle Rock and Granada Hills in the playoffs, brings one of the best running attacks the Tigers will have seen this season. The Rams are led by Lavell Thompson, a junior, who has amassed 2,201 yards and 30 touchdowns on 181 carries. Alexander Flatos, a senior, is more than a backup. Flatos, who also plays quarterback, has 1,337 yards and 13 touchdowns on 127 carries.

"They run the ball pretty good," Garcia said. "Lavell Thompson, who we saw last year in the quarterfinals, has gotten better, stronger and quicker. You have to made tackles; we can't let him get on a roll. We have to try and frustrate him. And we'll go from there. But we have to stop their run."

Adds defensive back Jalen Davis, 17, a senior, "I've seen a lot of film of [Thompson]. He's not big or tall, but I can tell he's fast and quick. I saw the film against Eagle Rock, and he did quite a bit of damage to them."

But Davis, who transferred to San Fernando from Verdugo Hills, is determined to not let anyone or any team spoil the Tigers dream season.

"It's amazing to be (in the championship game). It's everything I wanted in football; not just to win a championship, but to be this far in the playoffs, be in a winning program, and have a coach that really cares about us."

Chaminade vs. Serra

The Eagles and Cavaliers played a memorable Western Division title game last year, with Serra holding off Chaminade 35-30 after stopping the Eagles' recovered onside kick just short of the necessary 10 yards needed for a legal recovery.

But when the teams met on Oct. 18 in a Mission League game, the gap had seemingly widened considerably. Serra slammed Chaminade by a score of 36-0. The Eagles looked a step-and-a-half slow to the Cavaliers, both on offense and defense.

Chaminade – whose only other loss this year was a 58-54 shootout with Hart of Newhall back on Sept. 6 – has won six straight since that Oct. 18 game, including in the postseason. The Eagles have seared that beatdown deep into their collective memories, and are eager for a chance at redemption.

"We are definitely better and in better shape, hopefully we're peaking at the right time," said Head Coach Ed Croson.

"In high school, you add wrinkles as you go because kids can only learn so fast. And for everybody it's equal, so Week Seven is Week Seven for everybody. And where we were at Week Seven isn't close to where we are now. Hopefully we've gained some ground. We've talked about it the last seven weeks, how are we gonna make up 36 points. That's been the challenge."

The players have picked up Croson's mantra.

"I think that game was an eye-opener, showing us what we needed to work on, said running back Donovan Lee, 18, a senior who has rushed for 1,566 yards and 31 touchdowns. "Ever since that game, we've been stressing how we needed to make up the 36 points in that game. So week in, week out, every team we've played, we've tried to get better so we can make up that 36 points."

Added linebacker Rick Gamboa, 17, a senior, "It was a big smack in the face. We went into the game thinking it would be a lot closer, to where it became a real big reality check. Ever since then, that (gap) has been in our heads, to where every day and every week we've been working to get better to make up that 36- point difference."

Serra, however, is one of the top teams in the state. The Cavs are not just the defending section champion but also the state bowl Division IV champion, and could make a legitimate argument to appear in the state bowl Open Division game if they win on Friday.

Even knowing that, there is still an "X" factor about Serra, which has dismissed Pacifica of Oxnard, Buena of Ventura and St. Francis of La Canada in the playoffs, that has to concern Croson.

How much better are the Cavs since that Oct. 18 game?

"That's hard to say because they are so talented, and they were so good from the start," Croson said. "Until we play them, we're not gonna know. Now St. Francis played them the same way twice in a row (and Serra struggled to win both games). But Serra looks good to me. (Players) Olajuwon Tucker looks good, Jalen Greene looks good, Adoreé Jackson looks good, Josh Davis looks good, and Dwight Williams looks good. They look good."

Poly vs. View Park

Poly is the "surprise" team that always seems to pop up during the playoffs, the one no one expected to be in a final.

And the Parrots would agree with you. They didn't hire Head Coach Jose Campos, a walk-on, until June. They were coming off a 2-8 season in 2012. The players are pretty much unknown to everyone outside of Poly.

But they are here, after beating Hollywood, Santee of Los Angeles, and Bernstein of Hollywood in the playoffs, in the Division III final.

"I'm really surprised," said Campos who was the junior varsity coach before the late, unexpected promotion. "I know these kids have a lot of heart and desire to want to play the game. For them to play and me telling them from Day One that I never promised them anything and it would be hard-earned work from themselves, they deserve to be here."

As for the players, they are thrilled.

"It's really a big difference from the past two years," said linebacker Edwin Pleitez, 17, a senior. "Everybody looked down on Poly. But the new coaching staff has the players recommitted (to football). The whole Poly organization has changed tremendously."

Adds running back Deshonte Jones, 18, a senior, "I've been through a lot, so I take it game by game. But this hasn't really sunk in yet. I do want that ring. I'm hungry for it. … Everyone is hungry. Who thought we, Polytechnic, would still be practicing in December?"

They are facing an opponent that has established a solid pedigree in a short amount of time.

View Park opened in 2003. The Knights have been winning City football championships – four in all – in eight-man football, small schools and Division III since 2008.

In three playoff games they have destroyed Legacy of South Gate, Frederick Douglass Academy of Los Angeles, and Torres of Los Angeles by a combined total of 142-8.

"Defensively we have to make them go the length of the field, and force them to commit some errors down the line," Campos said. "We'll have to make adjustments on the fly, whatever we see and whatever we have to do to keep the ball moving on offense."

Poly has also won City championships – a total of five -- but it's doubtful many people remember all but the last one, a 3A title in 1991. The others came in 1915, 1920, 1925 and 1928, when the school was still in downtown Los Angeles.

"It would mean a lot (to win), not just for the school because it has been 23 years, but in general it helps build the program to where we want to be at for the future," Campos said

Campos believes the Parrots will add to their title collection if they do things right.

"I'm a firm believer that offense wins games and defense wins championships," the coach said. "If the offense can't put us in the game, and the defense can't hold it's ground, then maybe it's not our time. But if we come out playing the way we have throughout the playoffs, with that same intensity, I think we can win a championship."

His players say they are ready.

"It's getting to the point we know we can do this," Jones said. "So let's keep doing what we're doing; because we're here."

Last Updated on Thursday, 05 December 2013 04:51

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