...October 28, 2011

The Serra Cavaliers tried to play Texas Rangers and hand St. Paul a last chance win, but they ran out of time. So the Cavs remain undefeated in Mission League play; destined, it seems, for a show down with former sister-school, Chaminade, on former Armistice Day.


It was not pretty, but the Cavs showed up and put in three and half quarters of competent football. They were ahead 21-0 when the palsy set in. The final six minutes were painful.


Serra kicked off, stopped the Swordsmen in three plays, returned their first punt to the Swordsman's 32, then scored on a perfect quarterback draw. Serra up 7-0 after three minutes.


From there, the Cavs and Swordsmen scrimmaged without much result for the rest of the first and nine minutes of the second quarter. At the 3:40 mark in the second, Adorre Jackson brought the crowd to life with a spectacular interception of a twenty five yard pass. Eight plays and two penalties later, Serra scored on 39-yard pass that seemed to be a certain interception, but somehow ended in the arms of Terrance Harvey in the end zone. Serra up 14-0.


Shades of the St. Frank's game, St. Paul turned the ball over after one play. Serra recovered at the St. Paul 25 with 41 seconds. On the next play, Serra apparently scored on a pass to the end zone, but it was ruled incomplete on the debatable ground that the ball came lose as the receiver was being tackled in the end zone.


Three plays into the second half, Serra fumbled and St. Paul recovered at its own 45. Ten plays later: the Swordsmen had advance to the Serra 33, then gave up ground to penalties. But their effort was for naught. On fourth and fifteen, Kris Cooper intercepted an attempted screen, and took the ball back to the spot where Serra had fumbled five minutes earlier.


Serra's first real possession of the second half ran out of gas at the 25. Eddie Garcia's 46-yard field goal try had the distance but was slightly off line.


St. Paul had momentary successes on the ensuing ten-play drive, but were frustrated by a series of delay and procedure penalties. A fake punt with 27 seconds remaining in the third period was not a complete failure. Serra insisted on intercepting the ball at the twenty-five instead of taking over on downs at the forty-five. But there was method in this apparent blunder: on the next play, Bateman ran 75 instead of 55 for Serra's third touchdown.


With nine seconds left in the third, Serra was up 21-0 and had the game well in hand. The run defense was stout, and Anterio Bateman was putting up big, and well-earned numbers. A perfectionist would have noted, however, that Serra had no passing attack, that short touch passes had been thrown too hard, low or behind the receiver and that well thrown passes had gone right through the receivers' hands. And on at least five plays, St. Paul receivers had found themselves all alone behind the Serra secondary. Only good luck and good field position had saved the Cavs' shutout. There were the ingredients of a Texas Rangers meltdown.


Serra's defense held on the next series, and Serra appeared to score on a days-of-yore punt return, but the automatic block in the back flag brought the ball back to the Serra 30. Four plays and another penalty later, the sixth pass-through-the-receivers hands was intercepted at the Serra 40, and the Cavs turned into the ninth-inning Texas Rangers.


Three routine plays, then a throw-back screen caught Serra on the wrong side of the field, and St. Paul had its first score on a two-yard pass and a forty-yard run after catch. St. Paul 7, Serra 21 with 6:29 remaining in the game.


Serra took a short kick off to the St. Paul 21 in seven plays, but surrendered on a hopelessly overthrown fourth-and-six pass to the end zone. By now, Serra had a bad case of the fourth quarter palsy. The run defense remained stout, but there was always one more St. Paul receiver than Serra defender. With 1:12 remaining, St. Paul scored again on a six yard, third down pass to a lonely tight end at the back of the end zone.


Not that Serra wasn't expecting the onsides kick, but it helped that St. Paul was called offsides on two successive tries. When they finally managed to let the kicker get to the ball first, Serra fielded the ball. St. Paul had two time outs remaining, but Serra managed the one first down necessary to avoid lightning, and for a second week Serra staggered instead of swaggered off the field.


Next week it's the 99% visiting the 1%: Harvard Westlake at the Palace of Prepdom. Serra should be favored, but nothing is secure this season.