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Playing for fun and pride

December 16, 2007|Eric Sondheimer | ON HIGH SCHOOLS

For those sports fans fed up with two days of non-stop numbing news about steroids in Major League Baseball, Saturday's CIF state football championship bowl games offered a breath of fresh air -- players performed for the love of the game and their teammates and received hugs and kisses from mothers, fathers, friends and cheerleaders.

"Steroids is the dumbest thing I've ever heard of," sophomore linebacker Dylan Davis of Ventura St. Bonaventure said. "If you can't make it by yourself, find something else. My momma made me. This is all you need, your fans and your family."

Davis, nicknamed "Pit Bull," was limping and smiling after his team's 35-21 victory over Modesto Central Catholic in the Division III final. His head-on collision with Central Catholic running back Louis Bland on the first play of the fourth quarter on fourth and two from St. Bonaventure's 42-yard line was all about heart and lessons learned.

"I saw a guard pull and did what my coach has been telling me for 15 games . . . to follow him and make the tackle," Davis said.

Bland, who rushed for 196 yards, was stopped one yard short of the first down. St. Bonaventure took over, and quarterback Casey Serna soon completed a 70-yard touchdown pass play to Drew Gibson, breaking a 14-14 tie.

It was the second year of the state bowl game format in which a tripleheader is played at the Home Depot Center in Carson. Last year, when the games were played in the rain, attendance was 13,683. Saturday, with clear skies, it was 12,505. That's disappointing, but it's an event gaining in popularity among the participants.

The quality of the football matching teams from Southern California against their counterparts from Northern California has been surprisingly competitive, and the Division I game in which Corona Centennial rallied from a 31-7 third-quarter deficit before falling to Concord De La Salle, 37-31, is one many will be talking about for years.

There's still a need for some kind of regional play-in game to establish a true state champion in each division, but the drama of the Division I game validates the bowl game concept.

And speaking about tweaking things, how about using instant replay for the bowl games because the officials twice allowed touchdowns in the Division III and II games after ballcarriers supposedly crossed the goal line, but TV replays offered a different verdict.

Regardless, it was a day and night to celebrate one of the last bastions of amateurism, where teenagers get to feel like pros but play for their school, community and pride.

Even running back Darrell Scott of St. Bonaventure, who abandoned his former teammates at Moorpark to play for the Seraphs this season, seemed gracious in victory and made one of the most unselfish plays of the day, contributing a block that gave Serna the time to complete his decisive 70-yard touchdown pass.


Final thoughts on the 2007 football season:

Most astounding statistic: 13 offensive holding penalties called against Rancho Cucamonga Los Osos in its 10-7 playoff loss to Temecula Chaparral.

Sponsored by Worth magazine: The Northeast Division championship game between San Juan Capistrano St. Margaret's and Brentwood brought out more millionaires than a yacht race. Coach Harry Welch of St. Margaret's said he saw on Brentwood's side of the field Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Oscar winner Jack Nicholson. "There were a lot of limos in the parking lot," Welch said.

Most unsung Southern Section player: Junior quarterback Corey Nielsen of Cerritos Gahr, who passed for 4,363 yards and has a 4.0 grade-point average.

Most unsung City Section player: Junior quarterback Josh Moten of Harbor City Narbonne, who passed for 2,100 yards and ran for more than 800.

Biggest trend: The spread offense. It's here to stay.

Top college prospects of Class of 2009: 1. QB Matt Barkley, Santa Ana Mater Dei; 2. RB Cierre Wood, Oxnard Santa Clara; 3. WR De'Von Flournoy, Lake Balboa Birmingham; 4. LB Vontaze Burfict, Corona Centennial; 5. DB Marlon Pollard, Cajon; 6. QB Clark Evans, Los Alamitos; 7. RB Melvin Richardson, Long Beach Poly; 8. TE Morrell Presley, Carson; 9. LB Jordan Barrett, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame; 10. LB Marquis Simmons, Compton Dominguez.

Most impressive sophomores: 1. LB Malcolm Jones, Westlake Village Oaks Christian; 2. WR Exavier Edwards, Orange Lutheran; 3. QB Tyler Shreve, Redlands East Valley; 4. DE Ronald Powell, Moreno Valley Rancho Verde; 5. OL Chris Ward, Mater Dei; 6. DB Troy Hill, St. Bonaventure

Top five teams for 2008: 1. L.B. Poly; 2. Mater Dei; 3. St. Bonaventure; 4. Orange Lutheran; 5. Los Alamitos.


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