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Patriots Survive Miscues, Deficit

West Valley League: Birmingham remains unbeaten by coming from behind to defeat Granada Hills, 29-20.


GRANADA HILLS — There's a first time for everything. Except, perhaps, a loss for Birmingham High.

The Patriots found themselves in an unfamiliar position Friday night--trailing.

Panic and an unbeaten record is gone. Stay calm and . . .

"We're a fourth-quarter team," quarterback Scott Jensen said. "We knew we'd come back."

It took overcoming a two-touchdown deficit, four fumbles and numerous penalties, but Birmingham defeated Granada Hills, 29-20, to clinch a share of the West Valley League championship.

The Patriots (9-0, 4-0 in league play) can win the title outright with a victory over Chatsworth.

After battling back to trail, 14-13, after three quarters, Birmingham dominated the fourth, scoring two touchdowns and tacking on a two-point conversion run by Kevin McCleary each time.

McCleary, a junior tailback, scored from eight yards with 8:50 to play. D'Andre Sewell, McCleary's backup, scored from 38 yards with 1:18 to play.

"We hadn't been behind all season," lineman Mario Palomino said. "This was our first real test. But our coaches kept their composure and so did we. Screaming and yelling doesn't solve anything."

Granada Hills (6-3, 2-2), playing without deep receiver Joey Rodriguez, came out in a power-I formation and scored twice in the first quarter primarily by running off tackle.

On their first possession, the Highlanders drove 80 yards, scoring on a seven-yard run by Robert Ortega. On their next possession, Bryan Wilson burst 92 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

Birmingham drove to the Granada Hills three, only to fumble on the first play of the second quarter.

The Patriots cut the deficit in half midway through the second quarter. A 44-yard pass play from Jensen to Ramal Porter set up a one-yard scoring run by McCleary.

Birmingham fumbled the kickoff to begin the second half, held Granada Hills on downs, then drove to the Highlander 16.

And fumbled again.

Granada Hills still couldn't get anything going, but Bobby Baca's 62-yard punt gave Birmingham the ball at the three.

Enter Sewell, who rushed for 109 yards in 10 carries after sitting out last week because of an ankle injury. The senior ignited a 97-yard drive with runs of eight, 12 and 12 yards and Porter made a leaping catch of a 35-yard pass in the end zone.

However, Ortega blocked the extra point and Granada Hills clung to a 14-13 lead.

Birmingham fumbled again, but receiver John Walker recovered at the Granada Hills' 18 and McCleary scored the go-ahead touchdown three plays later.

"When times got tough we stayed focused," Sewell said. "This was a new experience for us."

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