It was a call Loyola Coach Steve Grady does not regret. But the consequence was a 7-3 loss Friday night to Bishop Amat in the Southern Section Division I championship before 12,732 at Cerritos College.
With Loyola driving for the apparent winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter on the strength of running back Eric Rogers, Grady opted for a play-action pass on fourth-and-one from the Bishop Amat 14-yard line. But quarterback Clelio Boccato was dropped for a four-yard loss and Bishop Amat took over on downs.
"It shouldn't have come down to one play," said Grady, who played on the Cubs' first Southern Section team in 1962. "If we made it, it would (have been) great. If it failed, I knew I would look back and wonder why."
On the ensuing series, Loyola defensive back Brad Clougherty recovered a botched snap from quarterback Michael Smith with 3:21 to play at the Bishop Amat 45-yard line. Three plays later, Boccato connected with Michael Ratkovic on a 19-yard crossing pattern to move the ball to the 28, and Fernando Chavez followed with a blast up the middle for a four-yard gain to the 24.
But on the next play, Boccato fumbled the snap and linebacker George Guzman recovered with 1:24 left to seal the victory.
"We gave it a great shot," Boccato said. "Offensively, we got cold inside the 30-yard line."
Loyola opened the scoring on Mark McDonald's 42-yard field goal with 10 seconds left in the first quarter. Bishop Amat scored what would prove to be the winning touchdown with 1:50 to go before halftime after a 97-yard drive in nine plays.
"We had our moments and I'm proud of our defense. They couldn't have done any better," Grady said.
Running back Rodney Sermoms had 95 yards in 18 carries and Smith completed six of 11 passes for Bishop Amat. Boccato was six of 15 for 62 yards to finish the season with 1,757 yards. Loyola out-gained Bishop Amat in offense, 168-160.
Top-seeded Bishop Amat handed third-seeded Loyola its only other loss to win the Del Rey League title Nov. 7.
Bishop Amat won its first championship in 21 seasons when Pat Haden, John McKay Jr. and John Sciarra helped the Lancers to titles in 1970 and '71. They will play the winner of the City 4-A final between Sylmar and Carson in the first CIF Reebok Bowl Saturday at Anaheim Stadium.
Loyola administrators informed Southern Section officials that the Cubs would decline the invitation in the event of a victory because of conflicts with finals.
Loyola advanced to the final with wins over Palmdale (55-27), Redlands (39-7) and Fontana (17-7). Bishop Amat outscored its opponents 94-13 in the playoffs with victories over Mission Viejo (38-0), Long Beach Wilson (28-7) and Eisenhower (28-6).
Rain earlier in the day forced the game to be moved from Anaheim Stadium to Cerritos College to protect the field for the Rams' game against New Orleans today.
Records: Loyola 12-2; Bishop Amat 14-0.