I drove 110 miles Friday night deep into the Inland Empire to watch a high school football game, passing some fighter jets flying out of March Air Reserve Base on the way to Vista Murrieta High, home to one of the most extraordinary athletes in California.
USC Coach Lane Kiffin and the next UCLA coach will be surely making the same trip quite often if that's what it takes to land Su'a Cravens, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound junior who did everything but carry the water bottles to help the Broncos defeat unbeaten Upland, 39-18, in an Inland Division semifinal game.
"Whatever it takes to get that championship ring, I'll do," Cravens said. "I'll play offensive line, I'll play defensive line."
Cravens, a running back-linebacker, had three sacks to lead a defense that shut down an Upland attack that had scored at least 49 points in each of its last five games.
Darion Williams' 34-yard interception return for a touchdown with 7:36 left sealed the victory.
Vista Murrieta (8-5), which is unbeaten on the field, will face Corona Centennial (12-1) in Friday's championship game. The Broncos have plenty of weapons besides Cravens.
There are the Piecukonis twins, Cody and Aaron. Cody caught a 42-yard touchdown pass and had a 64-yard punt return for a touchdown. Aaron ran for 132 yards and scored on a 33-yard run.
There's junior quarterback Nicholas Stevens, who passed for 177 yards and keyed a dominant second-half performance by directing a 91-yard, 13-play drive to start the third quarter and scoring on a one-yard run.
But Cravens is the definition of impact player. In three of the first six plays run by Upland, he made tackles. Then he partially blocked a punt. He had the final block to clear the path for Cody Piecukonis' punt return.
"It was nice of him," Piecukonis said. "He's a stud."
Cravens sacked Upland quarterback Nate Romine twice, including an 11-yard loss on fourth down in which he burst into the Upland backfield so fast he was almost a blur. He caught a 21-yard pass on third down.
In the second half, he had another sack, made a leaping 23-yard reception and scored on a two-point conversion run.
Romine passed for 227 yards. Big-time college recruit Kenny Lawler of Upland made a leaping 31-yard touchdown catch and had seven receptions for 106 yards.
But no one compares to Cravens, whom Coach Coley Candaele said he held back during the regular season to make sure he was healthy for the playoffs. Now he has turned him loose, and the rest of the Southland, beware.