Centennial players celebrate after picking off one of three passes during… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)
Don't believe anyone who says they don't play thrilling football in the Inland Empire, because Friday night's Inland Division championship game between Corona Centennial and Vista Murrieta came down to one of those unforgettable scenes.
Su'a Cravens, the Gatorade state player of the year, was putting Vista Murrieta on his back and leading a comeback charge on a final drive. He caught a 25-yard pass on fourth down. He ran 12 yards on another down. He ran 14 yards for a touchdown with 1:18 left, pulling the Broncos to within a two-point conversion of tying the game.
Quarterback Nick Stevens then did what everyone in the crowd of 5,500 expected — he put the ball up for Cravens. But it was batted down in a one-on-one battle in the right corner of the end zone with cornerback Gavin Andrews, and Centennial pulled out a 30-28 victory for its seventh title in the last 12 years.
Centennial's defense came through in the clutch, producing four turnovers when Vista Murrieta (13-1) had the ball inside the 15-yard line.
Then there was the play of junior quarterback Robert Webber, who put himself alongside former Centennial quarterback standouts Taylor Martinez, Matt Scott and Michael Eubank in delivering a championship.
He completed 16 of 23 passes for 259 yards and one touchdown, a 60-yarder to Barry Ware in the third quarter that gave the Huskies a 20-16 lead. In the fourth quarter, Webber showed poise beyond his years, calmly keeping a drive alive with a 28-yard pass on third and 13 and a 10-yard pass on fourth and nine, setting up a 47-yard field goal by Rigo Luna that proved to be the game winner with 3:36 left.
Centennial has won 13 straight games since losing its opener to Ventura St. Bonaventure and awaits its opponent for next weekend's CIF state championship regional bowl games.
Cravens, a USC commit, did his best at the end and it was expected. If you wanted to know the mind-set of Cravens, all you needed to do was look at his tweets before game time. In the morning, he wrote, "I have never felt so live in my life."
Two hours before kickoff, he tweeted, "Lord catch me if im falling!! And please answer each time I call ...."
The first half ended in a 14-14 tie, but it was more about missed scoring opportunities for Vista Murrieta.
Bezhawn Hill had an interception at the nine-yard line and Marquis Perkins had an interception at the goal line to stop Vista Murrieta drives. And the Broncos missed an 18-yard field-goal attempt. Then, in the third quarter, Jihree Stewart came up with an interception at the goal line.
Kishawn Holmes rushed for 189 yards in 25 carries and scored two touchdowns for the Broncos.