GRANADA HILLS — There was an air show going on at the Kennedy High football stadium Saturday night and no one enjoyed it more than the pilot himself--L.A. Baptist High quarterback Zack Hernandez.
Hernandez completed 25 of 39 passes for 336 yards and a touchdown to help the Knights beat rival Village Christian, 31-18, and clinch the Alpha League title.
It was the regular-season finale for L.A. Baptist (9-0, 3-0 in league play), which has a bye this week, and the Knights' first league title in football. Defending league champion Village Christian fell to 6-3, 2-1.
"I don't think you can ask for anything more than this," said L.A. Baptist Coach Mark Bates, who once played for Village Christian Coach Mike Plaisance. "Village is a big rivalry and to beat them (for the league title) is just great. It just adds to the undefeated season."
The co-pilot for L.A. Baptist was senior wide receiver Jim Romero, who had 11 receptions for 176 yards and one touchdown and also ran for a score.
For Romero, it was a perfect ending to the Knights' perfect season.
"This game is always hyped up to be something special--it's a big rivalry thing," Romero said. "I came out here and did what I had to do. It's probably my best game all year."
L.A. Baptist scored on four of its five first-half possessions. The Knights got rolling with an 80-yard drive on the game's opening possession. The drive ended when Romero came from right end on a reverse and scored on a 17-yard run to the left corner of the end zone.
Village Christian answered with a 34-yard touchdown pass from Mike Spielman to Matt Darwin on its first possession to tie the score, 7-7.
But, by halftime, the Knights had built a 24-7 lead on Hernandez's 24-yard pass to Romero, a three-yard touchdown run by Matt Hernandez and a 27-yard field goal by Adrian Kaali-Nagy.
But the featured kicker in this game was Village Christian's Ignacio Brache, who attempted a 70-yard field goal just before intermission.
That one fell short, along with a 64-yard try early in the third quarter.
Brache did hit a 53-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to set an Alpha League record and get the Crusaders closer, 24-18.