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Servite Upsets Poly, 28-20

New coach helps Friars knock off second-seeded Jackrabbits, who were shut out in second half.

November 26, 2005|Eric Sondheimer | Times Staff Writer

Out of breath and coughing repeatedly after 48 minutes of exhorting from the sideline, Troy Thomas, the first-year football coach at Anaheim Servite, tried to put into perspective what his underdog team had accomplished Friday night with a 28-20 victory over second-seeded Long Beach Poly in a quarterfinal game of the Southern Section Division I playoffs at Cal State Fullerton.

"One thing about our guys is they believe," he said.

Down, 20-7, at halftime, Servite (9-3) rallied behind a defense that limited the Jackrabbits (9-3) to one first down in six offensive possessions in the second half.

Sophomore D.J. Shoemate turned in a game that will be remembered by the delirious Servite fans who charged onto the field afterward. Shoemate caught touchdown passes of 81, 59 and 15 yards. He had three sacks at defensive end and stripped the ball from Poly quarterback Millicent Olawale with 1 minute 15 seconds left to secure the victory.

"That's D.J.," Thomas said. "He's a stud. You got to go to the hot guy, and no one was hotter than him."

Poly had reached the Division I final in seven of the last eight years and hadn't lost a playoff game other than a championship game since 2002. The Friars hung together even though their offense was overwhelmed by Poly's defense in the first half. Poly tackle Kenny Rowe had two sacks and an interception, and Servite quarterback Danny Klein lost two fumbles.

The key play came with 5:47 left. Poly was leading, 20-14, when a snap went through the legs of punter Matt Kromminga. Servite took possession on Poly's 17-yard line.

Three plays later, Klein connected with Shoemate for a 15-yard touchdown pass, and Kevin Goessling's extra point gave the Friars the lead for good. Ray Rangel added a 27-yard touchdown run with 1:34 left.

Shoemate was the one Servite player who could match up with Poly in terms of speed and athleticism, but linebacker Chris Galippo was also all over the field making tackles and denying the big play.

In the second quarter, Poly was on the verge of pulling away. Olawale had a 37-yard touchdown run and Ryan Smith scored from the two for a 20-7 lead.

But the energetic Thomas, who took over a team that was 2-8 last season, kept pointing to his heart and asking his defensive players, "Do you have it right here?"

They answered by shutting out the Jackrabbits in the second half to earn a semifinal berth against Anaheim Esperanza, which defeated Redlands East Valley, 46-13.

The other Division I semifinal will be between Servite's Serra League rivals Santa Ana Mater Dei and Los Angeles Loyola, which upset top-seeded Huntington Beach Edison, 26-22. Third-seeded Mater Dei beat Colton, 42-27.

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