JACK FELL DOWN AND
BROKE HIS CROWN
by Pat Lynch '59
Five minutes and eight seconds, two possessions, six plays and gritty little Serra High School had beaten mighty Long Beach Poly, the jackrabbits, NFL incubator. Of course, no one knew that at the time.
Without that first five minutes, Serra loses 12 to 6, a commendable performance at that. But with that first five minutes, an historic win.
The stadium was packed beyond capacity, but as a football game, it couldn't compare with last week's donnybrook against Notre Dame.
Now back to that first five minutes. Serra won the toss and deferred. Serra got of a good kick, south to north, which the Jacks returned to the 30. The Jacks, heavier on the line than Serra, seemed lead footed, Serra's lighter, faster line backers were getting to the QB almost as soon as the ball. The Jacks made a first in three plays, then fumbled twice. The first they got back, the second was Serra's.
One play: Jalen Greene dropped back -- plenty of time -- and tossed a little rainbow to Anterio Bateman, all alone behind the Jacks' secondary at the goal line. Beautiful PAT. Serra blazing out of the blocks, 7-0 three minutes into the game.
Let's do that again. Serra kicked off. The Jacks returned to the 20. First play, the Jacks fumble on a run, Serra recovers. It took six plays this time, and the most spectacular athletic move of the night. Greene's pass over the middle was tipped, Darrell Furey made an amazing grassroots catch, and landed just over the goal line. Game over. Serra 14-Jacks zero, 6:52 remaining in the first quarter.
The Serra faithful (who must have outnumbered Poly's crowd five to one) rubbed their eyes, and swallowed hard. Was little Serra really going to blow might Poly out of the stadium? Or was it all a fluke? With over forty minutes of playing time, would the Rabbits come roaring back like George Patton at the Bulge?
The answer turned out to be yes and no. It was something of a fluke. The field, which had been like an ice skating pond for that first five minutes, turned into Mississippi mud. Serra couldn't run effectively, and the passing game sputtered. The Jacks turned to their ground game with Newton's laws of mass and momentum on their side. Taking nothing away from offense, it was the Cavalier defense that hoarded that early lead the rest of the way.
Serra's third kickoff was returned to the 33. There began a fourteen play Jackrabbit drive that ended in a touchdown five and half minutes later. Ten Woody Hayes, five-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust runs showed that the Rabbits were not going away quietly. The key play of the drive was the twelfth. A short slant-in pass was tipped and intercepted, apparently stopping the Jacks' at the Serra 20. A questionable interference call, however, gave the ball back to the Jacks, and they finished the drive with two further runs. Importantly, at least at the time, Serra blocked the PAT attempt. Serra 14 - Poly 6 with 1:08 remaining in the first quarter.
Adoree Jackson returned Poly's first kick of the game 63 yards to Jacks' 30, but two plays later, Greene misread the coverage, and threw a short pass that was easily picked off in the flat with no one between the thief and the goal line. Only Serra's exceptional speed saved a touchdown. Poly set up at its own 46, still in the first quarter.
Two runs and an overthrown ball to an open receiver led to the first punt of the game: Poly to Serra's 15 with 11:11 remaining in the half.
Serra turned to the run with dismal results. Three and out with a net of minus ten yards. The second punt of the game came 90 seconds after the first, a very high, deep punt, arguably beyond the coverage, but Jalen Jones sealed the deal with a superb open-field tackle at the Poly 45.
Long Beach went back to the pass. Three and out. Poly's punt rolled dead at the Serra 33.
The Cavs moved the ball to the Jack's thirty-five in five plays including two nice completions. The next three plays went nowhere. Serra's short, sky-high punt bounced dead at the Long Beach 19, about four and a half minutes remaining in the half.
Poly moved the ball running, but missed twice on attempted passes. Five plays, net twenty five yards, then a punt to Serra's 33. Serra pushed the ball back to the Rabbits' 45, and time expired on an attempted Hail Mary to the end zone that just missed being answered.
Poly opened the second half with an onside kick. It got by one Cav, but Serra managed to corral the ball at its own 40. Good field position, but from the Jacks' point of view better than another sixty-yard return. Two incomplete passes and a short run, and the Serra launched the first punt of the half with only forty five seconds elapsed. The Rabbits first second-half possession began at their 19.
They managed one first down, but Nicholas Usher strangled the drive with a single-handed sack, moving the Jacks back where they started. Punt to Serra at the Long Beach 44 with ten minutes to play in the third.
Serra moved the ball to the Jacks' twenty five with three tough runs. Then, after two misfires in a row, Greene threw a short look-in to Jordan Lasley, who juked and muscled the ball twenty some yards into the end zone. Serra's point after try was ugh-lee, can't say why. Serra 20 - Poly 6.
When the Rabbits got the ball, they stuck to the run five times, then attempted a pass. Jalen Jones intercepted and would have gone for a touch down, but he tripped. Serra's ball at its own 33. 2:20 remaining in the third.
Three lackluster plays later, Serra's out pass to the west sideline was intercepted. This sister-kissing exchange returned the ball to Poly about where it had been a minute earlier. This began the strategic threat of the night for Serra.
Poly ran with a will, and for eight plays, it seemed that the Cavalier defense was just over matched. But at Serra's eleven, the Cav infantry dug in and stopped the Juggernaut (pardon the mixed metaphor) on a fourth and five at the Serra five yard line.
The Cav offense moved the ball out to midfield, eating up five minutes. Time pressure precluded another long, punishing land offensive. The Jacks attempted air attack failed when Jackson overthrew a receiver wide open ten yards behind Serra's secondary, but in the end, it was three and out. Five minutes remaining.
Serra held the ball for half that time before punting at 2:48. Long Beach started at its own 23. Serra went into the patented Terry Donahue prevent defense, the one that always gives up points. Long Beach receivers had lots of room. Ten plays eating up two minutes, and Long Beach scored on a fifteen-yard post pattern with 39 seconds left. The Serra win was in the refrigerator, the butter was hard, and the jello was jigglin'. Or was it?