Banning quarterback Ed Kapu and fullback Eric Sharp each ran for two touchdowns, but it was the Banning defense that put the Pilots in the City 4-A final with a 28-9 semifinal win over San Fernando Friday night at East Los Angeles College.
Banning now meets Carson next Friday. Carson defeated Dorsey, 35-19, Friday night.
Banning's defense, which had only been scored upon once in the fourth quarter all season, shut San Fernando out in the second half and limited the Tigers' wishbone attack to just 168 yards total offense.
"Once our defense starts taking hold of a game our offense gets pumped up," Banning Coach Chris Ferragamo said. His team enters the City finals for the 10th time in 11 years.
"Any type of turnover caused by our defense makes us sparkle."
Banning forced five San Fernando turnovers, including two interceptions in the second half that led to a pair of touchdowns, putting the game out of reach.
"We knew we'd have to come out and play hard-nosed football and we did," San Fernando Coach Tom Hernandez said. "But, the turnovers killed us."
Banning (8-3) had a 14-9 lead with 55 seconds left in the third quarter when Pilots' linebacker Calvin Spears intercepted a Dwayne Calloway pass at the San Fernando 44-yard line and returned it 10 yards.
Five plays later, Kapu scored his second touchdown of the night on a 17-yard run off right tackle.
On San Fernando's first play of its next possession, Banning's Marvin Pollard intercepted his second pass of the game and returned it 21 yards to the San Fernando 14.
Two plays later, Sharp carried the ball in from seven yards out to finish the Pilots' scoring.
The Banning win was the 21st in a row for the Pilots over teams from the San Fernando Valley. The last time Banning lost to a team from the Valley was when Granada Hills, led by John Elway, beat the Pilots in 1978.
Banning took a 14-9 halftime lead after capitalizing on a bad snap from center on an attempted punt by the Tigers.
San Fernando (8-3) was leading 9-7 with 1:33 left in the half and George Webb was attempting to punt from the Tigers' own 40. But, the snap was low and the ball rolled through Webb's legs all the way back to the 23-yard line.
Banning took possession with 1:26 left. On the first play, Kapu hit flanker Bryan Burnett with a quick pass on the right sideline and Burnett carried the ball to the three.
Kapu scored on the next play with a quarterback sneak to put the Pilots in front.
"The bad snap turned things around," Hernandez said. "It took something away from us and gave the momentum back to them."
Banning had launched the first scoring drive of the game after Pollard intercepted a Calloway pass and returned it 19 yards to the San Fernando 30.
Banning tailback Earl Saunders carried the ball four times for 24 yards during the eight-play drive and fullback Eric Sharp capped it with a two-yard run into the end zone.
San Fernando came back on its next possession. The Tigers started their drive at their own 16 and quickly moved downfield behind running backs Lance Harper and Clarence Bradley. San Fernando also benefitted from a face mask penalty against Banning that put the ball at the Pilots' 18-yard line.
When the Tigers couldn't penetrate past the 12, Alfonso Ontiveros came on to kick a 29-yard field goal to make the score 7-3 with 11:57 left in the half.
San Fernando took the lead on its next possession after Troy Knox recovered a Banning fumble at the Tiger's 38-yard line.
San Fernando converted three fourth down situations during the 62-yard, 12-play scoring drive.
Faced with a fourth-and-four at the Banning 32, Calloway hit David Richards with an 11-yard pass for a first down.
Bradley kept the drive alive when he carried two yards to convert a fourth-and-one situation from the 12-yard line with 4:55 left in the half.
Finally, the Tigers faced a fourth-and-goal from the one and Bradley responded again with a run around right end for the touchdown that put the Tigers ahead 9-7.