Loyola High, ranked third in The Times' Southern Section poll, upset No. 2 Crespi and shut down highly touted running back Russell White, 15-8, Saturday night at Birmingham High in Van Nuys before a capacity crowd of 11,207.
The victory gives Loyola (9-0) the Del Rey League title with a 4-0 record with one game remaining. Loyola last won the league title in 1985. Crespi (7-1-1, 3-1) hasn't won a league title since 1973.
The Cubs, who had allowed just 31 points entering the game, held the explosive Crespi offense scoreless until the fourth quarter. By then, Loyola had a 15-0 lead.
Loyola held White, who led the state in rushing last year with 2,339 yards, to 28 yards in 14 carries. But stopping White isn't anything new for the Cubs. Last year, in Crespi's 21-14 win, Loyola held White to 96 yards, his only sub-100 effort of the season.
"We had a guy with No. 4 (White's number) on in practice," said Matt Butkus, a Loyola defensive end and the son of former Chicago Bear Dick Butkus. "We were prepared for him. We had team hustle to get to the ball to stop him."
Crespi sputtered throughout the game, but it was the Celts' inability to convert on a big fourth-down play in the fourth quarter that put the game on ice.
Trailing, 8-0, with 6:30 left, Crespi quarterback Ron Redell hit running back J.J. Lasley on a fourth-and-five play from the Crespi 46. Lasley caught the ball in the right flat, but was tackled inches short of the first down.
Loyola broke the Celts' back two plays later, when running back Mike Buckley broke one up the middle for a 56-yard score that made it 15-0 lead with 4:38 remaining.
"Their defense was awesome; they just stuffed (us)," Crespi Coach Bill Redell said. "I didn't think anyone could stop our running game. It really surprised me."
Crespi tried to make a late rally. Redell hit receiver Eric Kieling for an 11-yard score with 1:20 left and threw to Lasley for the two-point conversion.
Crespi's attempt at an onside kick failed and Loyola ran out the clock.
Crespi appeared baffled by Loyola's 3-4 defense, especially in the first half. White's second fumble of the first half set up Loyola's first touchdown. After Crespi's Joe DeFinney intercepted Jason Evans' pass at the Crespi five to halt a Cub scoring threat, White fumbled on the next play.
Two plays later, Johann Fuller scored on a three-yard run up the middle to give the Cubs a 6-0 lead. Fuller fumbled on the play, but was ruled to have already broken the plane of the goal by officials. Paul Stonehouse missed the extra point after a bad snap.
Crespi finished with 74 yards in the first half and White had just 20 yards in 11 carries. The Celts turned the ball over four times in the half--three on fumbles and one on an interception. Crespi had five turnovers to Loyola's two.
After Stonehouse's punt pinned Crespi back at its own eight, quarterback Redell was sacked in the end zone for a safety by Todd Brady and Paul Sellers, giving Loyola its 8-0 halftime lead.