What a game it was. Not one to watch on the tube. Awesome runs, gut wrenching mistakes, putrid calls, inspired opposition, classic football weather, fourth down scores, championship on the line, in doubt until the last throw of the game flew out of bounds and the clock expired.
What a horrible ride home it must have been for Chaminade the Eagles. It was that close: a game that you feel bad for the loser.
Superstition is a sin, but eleven-eleven-eleven seemed to be a jinx for the Cavs. Two fumbles on their first drive alone, the first squirted out of bounds for an additional gain, but Chaminade covered the second at their own twenty.
Chaminade couldn't get anywhere, nor could Serra, nor could Chaminade. More fumbles and dropped balls. Serra got the ball for the third time with six twenty remaining in the first. Five good runs brought the Cavs to the Chaminade thirty, then a perfect thirty-yard pass to a streaking Adorre Jackson drew first blood. The point after try missed badly. Serra 6 - Eagles 0 3:26 remaining in the first quarter.
Chaminade took Serra's first kick off right back for a touchdown in four plays. It looked like Serra had gotten a little overconfident. Over compensation on the point after let to an offsides call, which inspired the Eagles to go for, and make a 2-point conversion. Ominous.
Chaminade kicked high and short on the kickoff, and Serra, which has trouble with short kicks, almost let the Eagles get the ball. Three plays later, Serra fumbled for the fifth time, handing the ball over to the Eagles at the 10. Really ominous.
Serra's run defense came alive, and the Eagles had to settle for a field goal try that went wide. Fourteen plays later, after recovering the sixth fumble and a very wild snap, Serra scored on fourth and six inches to recapture the lead. Altenberg settled for one point after, and Eddie Garcia was automatic. 13-8.
Chaminade went right back to work, moving twenty yards four plays, then tried a long pass. Raymond Ford made a highlight reel interception, the play of the half. Serra immediately took advantage: Ronnie Vaughn turning a broken play into fifty yard run to the Eagle 15. Freshman Malik Robertson outran the Eagles to the west flag, and Serra had a temporary cushion: 20-8. Nothing happened in the remaining three minutes.
Chaminade received to open the second half. Helped by a much-resented pass interference call, the Eagles moved to the Serra twenty-two in seven plays. Tailback Terrell Newby ran in untouched from there. Newby gets the credit on the sports page, but the Eagle line and perhaps a bad guess on defense made it happen.
Chaminade settled for a single point closing to 15-20.
Serra took its first kick of the second half and ran off some great runs. A personal foul call -- a classic case of the victim being penalized for reacting to a late hit -- took the steam out of the Serra drive. On fourth down, the snap went five yards over Garcia's head. Showing off heretofore unknown Australian Rules technique, Garcia circled back, scooped up the ball and kicked on the run. Six yards on the stat sheet, but a thirty-five or forty yard save.
The Eagles set up on their own forty five and moved to the Serra thirty on three good runs. They took a shot at the end zone on play 4. Both receiver and defender had a grip on the ball, but when the two came down it was Adorre Jackson who had possession and it was ruled an interception. Play of the second half.
Following a CS undue celebration penalty, Serra started at the ten. After a routine three-yard run, Serra threw a long pass that was field by the Eagles at the 50. One play later, Newby burst through the line and ran down the hash marks, untouched for a touchdown. Again, either brilliant blocking or a missed defensive assignment. Chaminade regains the lead with 14 minutes left in the game. Shades of Narbonne.
But the Cavs shrugged it off. After a touchback, Serra moved eighty yards in fifteen plays, alternating between abysmal foul-ups and astonishing, acrobatic, now-you-see-me-now-you-don't runs. The final play of the drive, a touchdown at 8:17 of the fourth was the best of the series. With the ball on the two for the third time the snap went five yards over the quarterback's head. Greene peeled back, with the crowd coaching "fall on it, fall on it" and four or five Eagles chasing him, Greene picked up the ball and ran it in for a touchdown. Altenberg then ordered the two-point try, which was successful on a roll out pass caught by Terrance Harvey just over the line and just inside the boundary. Serra 28- Chaminade 22.
Serra's defense was souped up by the offense and gave Chaminade only three plays on their next possession. The Eagle's punt was fielded at the Serra 42. Serra scored in two great running plays, Ronnie Vaughn going the last twenty three yards in a churning, surfing run that defies description. Altenberg decided not to push his luck, and sent in Automatic Garcia for the point after. Serra 35 - Chaminade 22, with four minutes left to play.
Again the 11-11-11 hex: Chaminade scored in two plays, the second a seventy-yard pass-run play to a receiver so alone he seemed to materialize out of the haze. Then, to make the blown coverage worse if possible, Serra tackled the receiver at least two beats after he had scored, allowing Chaminade to kick from the Serra 45. To no one's surprise, it was an on-sides kick. Again Serra didn't react well to the short kick, but to be fair it took a perfect bounce for Chaminade. In all events, Serra stopped the Eagles in four downs, and took over at its own 35 with 3:38 remaining. The Cavs managed a first down, overcoming a holding call, and ran the clock down to 1:18.
The last 1:18 was torture. Between them four time outs were called. Every play was a hot stopper, but finally the last tick saw an attempted Hail Mary turn into a Gloria for Serra and a Dies Irea for the Eagles. What a game. The best, the most entertaining since Serra win over Oaks Christian in 2009.
Well earned congratulations to the coaching staff and especially to Serra's young, resilient and tenacious 2011-12 football team. Serra is Mission League champion -- for the time being champion every year since it joined this league. Serra is into the CIF playoffs for the n-th consecutive time. And as Scott Altenberg put it back in August: they're good.