Quarterback Jalen Greene, shown during a game in August, completed nine… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)
The speed of Gardena Serra was bottled up for a half, but once they broke out there was no stopping the Cavaliers, who exploded for 20 unanswered points in the final two quarters to defeat host Huntington Beach Edison in the inaugural CIF state south regional Division II bowl game Friday night at Orange Coast College.
The Cavaliers (13-2) advanced to their third state bowl in four years and will meet Oakdale for the Division II championship next Saturday at Home Depot Center in Carson. Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champion Oakdale (14-1) beat Concord Clayton Valley, 27-24, to win the Division II north regional.
Serra opened the second half with a nine-play, 75-yard drive and took a 14-10 lead on Jalen Greene's four-yard quarterback draw. After Ryan Dobson tacked on a 20-yard field goal, linebacker Malachi Mageo returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown that increased the Cavaliers' lead to 24-10 with 11:38 left in the fourth quarter. After a 49-yard punt return by Malik Roberson to Edison's 14-yard line, Dobson added a 21-yard field goal with 7:01 left.
The Cavaliers had a fourth-and-goal at Edison's one-yard line at the end of the game but let the clock run out instead of trying to score.
"In the first half we were too relaxed and they were hungrier than us," said Serra cornerback Adoree' Jackson, who returned an interception 59 yards to end the Chargers' last threat with 2:57 left. "They're very disciplined but we knew we were the better team. We have athletes all over the field and that showed in the second half. We didn't want to go home."
Greene completed nine of 12 passes for 70 yards and rushed 13 times for 95 yards for Southern Section Western Division champion Serra, which scored more points against Edison than any team has all season. The Chargers had allowed 20 points in a nonleague loss to Pac-5 Division finalist Santa Ana Mater Dei in September.
Southwest Division champion Edison (13-2) did exactly what it wanted to do in the first half — control the clock and score points. The Chargers took six minutes and 13 plays to march 76 yards on their first drive, capped by Aleksander Torgersen's one-yard sneak. They kept the ball for 7:41 on their second drive and took a 10-0 lead on a 27-yard field by Hunter Kelley midway through the second quarter.
Serra needed less than two minutes to answer, moving 59 yards in five plays and pulling to within 10-7 on Greene's seven-yard pass to Gregory Webb. Edison gained 10 first downs and had possession for almost 19 of 24 minutes in the first half.
"Our goal was to keep the [state] tradition alive after failing last year," Jackson added. "We weren't going to be denied. The turning point was the start of the second half, and when Malachi got that pick six I knew we had it."
Malik Roberson had nine carries for 60 yards as the Cavaliers forced three turnovers in the second half and limited Torgersen to six of 13 for 87 yards with two passes intercepted. He also ran for 71 yards in 18 carries. Donald Rice added 57 yards in 16 carries but fumbled at midfield to set up Dobson's first field goal.
Serra defeated Kentfield Marin Catholic, 24-20, to win the state Division III title in 2009 and lost to Folsom, 48-20, in the Division II state final in 2010.