On a cold night in Woodland Hills, Tim Lavin put the big chill on the La Sierra High football team Friday.
Lavin rushed for three touchdowns and threw a 26-yard option pass to set up the winning score in Chaminade's 27-20 Desert-Mountain Conference victory over La Sierra at Pierce College. In next week's semifinal round, Chaminade (10-2), which has won 10 consecutive games, plays St. Joseph, a 20-13 winner over Laguna Beach on Friday.
Lavin (6-2, 205), who rushed for 175 yards in 26 carries, must have felt like a runaway refrigerator to the La Sierra players, who tried to tackle him in the cold night air. He scored on runs of 6, 4 and 18 yards, the final touchdown coming with 7:31 left. Coupled with Chris Noonan's PAT kick, it gave Chaminade a 27-20 lead.
Lavin set up the touchdown by completing a 26-yard pass to a leaping Noonan on the preceding play.
"Lavin's an athlete. He's a stud," Chaminade Coach Rich Lawson said afterward.
Chaminade looked like a sure winner moments later when Jonas Esclera picked off a Keith Greeley pass at the Chaminade 31 with 4:08 to play.
Chaminade marched to the La Sierra 46, but on third and one, quarterback Greg Baumgartner fumbled the snap and La Sierra recovered at the 44.
"As Baumgartner pulled out, the guard must have knocked the ball out of his hands," Lawson said.
La Sierra (7-5) drove to the Chaminade 21, but Dannie McKinney couldn't hold on to Greeley's pass on fourth and one with 27 seconds left.
Chaminade turned the ball over five times, four on fumbles.
"Five turnovers is too many," Lawson said. "We do this again in the playoffs and it's over."
Chaminade broke a 13-13 halftime tie after Esclera's 22-yard punt return put the Eagles at the La Sierra 38. Baumgartner completed a 34-yard pass to Noonan on the next play, and Lavin scored from four yards out one play later. Noonan's kick gave Chaminade a 20-13 lead with 7:53 left in the third period.
La Sierra tied the score early in the fourth quarter when Scott Elmore dashed 64 yards to a touchdown. Four minutes later, Lavin scored the winning points on an 18-yard run.
Chaminade committed three first-half turnovers and was fortunate to manage a 13-13 tie after two quarters.
Strangely, Chaminade's first points came after one of those three miscues. Baumgartner's pass was intercepted in the end zone by McKinney, but he was tackled as he tried to run the ball out. The safety gave Chaminade a 2-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
A fumble four plays later by Tony Collatos gave La Sierra the ball at its own 44. Scott Elmore blasted over from the one to complete a 10-play drive. Kim Fuerniss' kick put La Sierra ahead, 7-2.
Lavin fumbled on the next play from scrimmage when he couldn't handle a high pitch from Baumgartner, and La Sierra took over at the Chaminade 29. Three plays later Greeley completed a short pass to Elmore, who went 22 yards for a touchdown. La Sierra attempted a two-point conversion, but Greeley's pass fell incomplete.
Chaminade cut the deficit to 13-5 when Noonan kicked a 25-yard field with 7:51 left in the half.
After a short punt, Chaminade got the ball at the La Sierra 42, and Lavin scored on a six-yard run six plays later. The big play of the drive was Baumgartner's 26-yard completion to Brady Mitchell on a third-and-17 play.
Lavin rushed for 86 yards in 13 carries in the first half, 44 coming on one second-quarter run that set up Noonan's field goal.