For all those who think that the City 4-A playoffs are the biggest farce this side of the National Hockey League, take note of Gardena High's performance Friday evening.
Gardena, which received its playoff berth only after winning a tiebreaker Monday, outplayed heavily favored Granada Hills for the first 3 1/2 quarters Friday before losing to the Highlanders, 14-7.
Gardena, which lost to Granada Hills by 48 points seven weeks ago, lost 13 players to academic ineligibility Monday, including eight starters.
"It's hard to get up for a team that you've already beat, 54-6," said Granada Hills' tailback Khalid Ali. "We just overlooked them. It was a heck of scare, but the fat lady didn't sing."
Maybe not, but Granada Hills is happy to have seen the last of the Mohicans (2-8) for 1986.
Granada Hills moves to the semifinals of the City 4-A playoffs, meeting Carson, a 45-7 winner over Cleveland on Friday.
Granada Hills (9-0-1) trailed at home, 7-0, with four minutes left, but tied the game on a three-yard run by Ali. Ali, who rushed for 182 yards on 26 carries, set up the score two plays earlier with a 49-yard gain on a fourth-and-one situation from Granada Hills' 45-yard line.
On the first play of Gardena's next possession, Mohican quarterback Johnny Matamoros was intercepted by Dean Yoshitani. After a clipping penalty was assessed on Yoshitani's return, Granada Hills took over on the 50-yard line with three minutes left.
Ali started the winning drive with a 15-yard run over left tackle and capped it seven plays later with a 24-yard run on the same call.
Gardena stifled the Highlanders, who scored more than 35 points in six games during the regular season, with a strong pass rush. Granada Hills' quarterback Jeremy Leach completed 12 of 25 passes for only 83 yards and was sacked five times.
"We thought we'd probably be more effective if we got after him instead of sitting back in a zone," Gardena Coach Dale Hirayama said. "We thought if we didn't get to him, he'd pick us apart. I take my hat off to my kids."
Said Ali: "They had one heck of a pass rush. We don't have a lot of big guys up front and they took it to us."
Gardena scored in the final minute of the first quarter when Mohican defensive back Damon Mack scooped up Mike Davis' fumble and ran 25 yards for a touchdown.
The Mohicans took a 7-0 lead into halftime as Granada Hills repeatedly stopped itself in Gardena territory.