NEWBURY PARK — A long-awaited chance at playoff redemption was presented to the Newbury Park High defense Friday night.
This time, the Panthers' defenders came to play.
Newbury Park dominated Leuzinger during the Panthers' 39-6 victory in the opening round of the Southern Section Division III playoffs.
The Marmonte League champion Panthers limited Leuzinger (5-6) to 199 total yards in a performance considerably better than last season's 50-36 first-round playoff loss to Nogales.
Newbury Park allowed an eye-popping 516 yards in that game--all on the ground.
"We waited a long time for this," senior linebacker Rich Adams said. "Nogales ran right past us last year and we promised ourselves that would not happen in the playoffs this year."
Top-seeded Newbury Park (11-0) will play Montebello (9-2), which scored a 24-21 victory over Ayala, in the second round next Friday night.
Players had to be separated when a minor melee broke out after the final gun. No one was injured.
The Panther offense also played an excellent game, gaining 435 yards.
Keith Smith completed 16 of 27 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Smith also rushed nine times for 101 yards and one touchdown.
"He is the best quarterback we've played all year," Olympian Coach Fred Boehm said. "The kid is outstanding. He's just incredible."
Receiver Leodes Van Buren--the all-time state leader in receptions and yards receiving--caught five passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns.
Leuzinger scored with 21 seconds remaining in the third quarter when Derrick Norris caught a six-yard touchdown pass from Jason Simmons to complete a nine-play, 54-yard drive. The score was 29-6 after the Olympians failed to convert a two-point conversion pass attempt.
Newbury Park took a 36-6 lead with 10:30 left in the game when Smith and Van Buren combined for their second touchdown pass play from 22 yards.
Newbury Park, which led at halftime of all its games during the regular season, owned a 29-0 lead entering the locker rooms. The Panthers dominated the Olympians in the half, gaining 300 yards to Leuzinger's 42.
Smith passed for 164 yards and one touchdown with one interception, and ran for another 91 yards and one touchdown. His rushing touchdown was an electrifying 51-yard run that brought the Panthers' fans to their feet. Smith's run and a point-after by Rich Adams closed the half's scoring with 2:40 left.
"He's as fast as anyone we have," Boehm said. "You have to take the outside angles from him or he'll take off and run wild."
The Panthers drove 93 yards in 10 plays after the opening kickoff, with Adams scoring from the one.
Smith and Van Buren teamed for a 44-yard touchdown with 34 seconds left in the first quarter.
Adams scored on another one-yard touchdown plunge to cap a five-play, 56-yard drive.