Champs take different paths to title

High school football is always a great spectacle to watch and enjoy. You have the concession stands. The cheerleaders and marching bands bring the flavor of high school sports alive with their high-volume energy. Coaches are running around barking out instructions. Players steady themselves to get ready for battle on the gridiron.

Then the game begins, and all of the unadulterated excitement comes full circle once the opening kickoff make it official. The adrenaline rush of playing in a championship game is amped up probably 10 times more than a regular season game.

So when the six teams from the CIF-Los Angeles City Section took to the field at Cerritos College, no doubt there were butterflies working the nerves of the players as they wandered on the field of play with a chance to do something special. The Belmont Sentinels, Fairfax Lions and Narbonne Gauchos made their efforts in their respective title games worth remembering.

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Fairfax defender Kenny Allen secures the ball as he is being tackled after making an interception in the CIF-Los Angeles City Section Division II championship game against Los Angeles High School. Photo by News4usonline.com

Fairfax probably should not have been on the same football field with Los Angeles High School in the CIF-Los Angeles City Section Division II title game, if someone were to judge the two teams’ overall records this season.

The Crenshaw High School-Narbonne Division I championship game was thought to be a matchup of equally talented Los Angeles City teams, both coming into the contest with an edge of rivalry on their minds.

The outcome of both games turned out to be different than what some may have expected. Fairfax used the churning legs of Ramses Hernandez to score a 31-16 upset win against Los Angeles High in the second of three championship games played at Cerritos College. Los Angeles High came into the game undefeated, running through City powerhouses Crenshaw and Dorsey on its way to winning the Coliseum League and dispatching previous playoff opponents with a flicker of ease.

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It was a tough night for Crenshaw High School in the CIF-Los Angeles City Section Division I championship game against Narbonne. Narbonne defeated Crenshaw, 57-21. Photo by News4usonline.com

Before facing off against Fairfax, Los Angeles had scored a total of 176 points in three playoff games, going for 80 points against Huntington Park. That would not be the case against Fairfax. The Lions weren’t having any of that, holding the Romans to their second-lowest output of the season.

There was the case of Mr. Hernandez running his way to 224 yards and four touchdowns. After the Romans had closed Fairfax’s lead to 24-16, Hernandez finished off the Lions with a 22-yard run with a little over a minute left to close the deal. Hernandez said the early season defeats to teams such as San Pedro, Chatsworth and Roosevelt only served to make the six-loss Lions (8-6) hungrier going into the game.

“The team’s mindset was to stop their offense and to move the ball down on our offense, and just come out confidence and strong and overpower them as a team,” Hernandez said. “Every play was just…you needed heart. It wasn’t easy, but in the long run, we came away with the win.”

Hernandez said his final touchdown run of the game was probably his most impressive, and the most important.

Narbonne defenders swarm all over a Crenshaw offensive player. Photo by News4usonline.com
Narbonne defenders swarm all over a Crenshaw offensive player. Photo by News4usonline.com

“At first, I was just trying to get the first down and run the clock down, and then I saw the endzone open up for me and I took my chance,” said Hernandez.

Hernandez’s last scoring run came after Kenny Allen picked of Los Angeles High quarterback Kaymen Cureton to erase the Romans’ last attempt at trying to tie the game. Allen said the early season defeats only helped to make the team better down the final stretch of the season.

“The early season losses helped us because it brought us together as a team so we could survive the rest of the games and the championship,” Allen said.

The recipe of early season losses may have worked in Narbonne’s favor as well against Crenshaw. The Gauchos have been on a roll since a season-opening defeat to Long Beach Poly and a tough, one-point loss to Serra. Since then, every team that Narbonne has lined up against has paid the price. The Gauchos’ playoff opponents would probably second that motion.

In the four playoff games Narbonne played on their way to the City’s Division I crown, including a 57-21 rundown of the Cougars, the Gauchos outscored their opponents 208-45. They made it look easy against Crenshaw, ending any type of potential late-game drama by going up at halftime 36-9. Fairfax and Narbonne may have taken different paths to the City title round, but they both left with the same memorable achievement: a championship.

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1056 Articles
Dennis covers the NFL (San Diego Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). As a professional journalist, Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a graduate of Howard University.