(East Los Angeles, CA) [From The Editor’s Desk]: The #4 seed East Los Angeles/Garfield Bulldogs (Eastern League), were soundly defeated by the #7 seed Lake Balboa/Birmingham Patriots (West Valley League) in their CIF/L.A. City Section (LACS) “Open” Division Playoff Final played at L.A. Valley College’s Monarch Stadium on Saturday, 11/26/22.
The night was ideal for a good high school football game with the weather on the field a cool 58° and no wind at all. Garfield, the home team by virtue of its higher seeding, brought its Marching Band along with its Cheer and Song groups. The stadium’s concession stands were doing a brisk business, the stands were nearly full on both sides, the teams were evenly paced during their pre-game warm-up drills, and the public address announcer was at his best. Thus, most of the ingredients for a Fall 2022 high school Championship playoff football game were present for the contest to begin.
[1st Qtr]: The Bulldogs won the “coin-toss” and elected to defer, giving the Patriots first possession of the ball. But that was basically where being a competitive finalist ended for Garfield because Birmingham took the opening “kick-off” and at the (9:01) mark, and very quickly and easily scored their first touchdown of the game by #26/Naiim Morgan. On their next possession, the Bulldogs went “3 & Out.” The Patriots wasted no time in scoring their second TD at the (5:27) marker, this time by running back, #21/Ronnell Hewitt. The third TD was a crowd-pleasing 70 yard TD, “Catch & Run” thrown by #10/QB/Kingston Tisdell, to his tall and talented #17/WR/Peyton Waters who turned on the turbo jets for the TD. That came at the (1:15) mark left in the period. A very noteworthy Special Teams/Kick-off and PAT, mention goes to #27/K-PK/Jacy Oliva, who displayed his kicking depth through a strong and powerful leg while also converting all of his PATs. It was (28-0) Birmingham after the first period.
Patriots Head Coach, Jim Rose’s strategy was to exploit his power ground game as they quickly figured out the dominance they had with their interior offensive line in which the players’ weights measured from 250 to 375 lbs. His QB, both running backs and wide receivers rounded out his “key” frontline players from a very large (64) man roster.
[2nd Qtr]: The power and speed running of Birmingham running backs Naiim Morgan and Ronnell Hewitt, were more than the Bulldogs could handle. With their big offensive line easily and dominantly executing their assignments, they began to blow-out Garfield defenders from both ends, as they opened gaping holes for their runners, while animating their crowd as the stadium scoreboard started to light up its electronic numbers rather quickly once again.
The Patriots’ first score in the period came once again on the running skills of #26/Morgan when hit pay-dirt after a long 49 yard run, going in untouched. This came at the (10:40) mark and moved the score up to (28-0). Morgan pulled the “hat trick” with his third TD on a 1 yard plunge, pushing the score up to (35-0), Birmingham. And, once again, Oliva hit both PATs.
[HALFTIME SCORE]: Birmingham 35 Garfield 0
[3rd Qtr]: With the extensive damage done by the Patriots in the first half, it was going to be an interesting second half for both schools. For Birmingham, it would be to watch first, then wait and see, if Coach Rose would lift his foot off the accelerator, or whether the Bulldogs could put up 35 unanswered points of their own, quick, fast, and in a hurry. The first statement was correct and the most sportsmanlike.
The Bulldogs received the “kick-off” and tried a mixture of runs and passes but never completed a “big-time” touchdown play. On their second drive of the half, they mixed their Run-Pass-Option (RPO) play-calls good enough to penetrate the “Red Zone” and from the 16 yard line they got on the scoreboard when #5/Damian Cornejo got the call and took it in with (5:01) left. The scoreboard now read (35-7) with the successful PAT. On their ensuing drive, the Patriots marched down the field and scored on a Morgan 27 yard romp to the end zone, now making the score, Birmingham, 42, Garfield 7. It was noteworthy that on a 4th down with (1:20) on the clock, and the line of scrimmage inside the Red Zone at the 16, Coach Hernandez unveiled one of his “School of Trick-nology” plays otherwise known as a “Flea-Flicker” that caught everyone by surprise. However, they were not able to make the badly-needed first down and turned possession back over to the Patriots.
[4th Qtr]: The Patriots were on automatic-pilot but stayed busy and focused, most likely in terms of preparing for their State Regional Championship Bowl appearance on December 3rd. They scored one last time at the (9:20) when their reserve running back #13/Ace Acosta, scampered in for the TD, and upped the score to read Birmingham 49, Garfield 7.
After the touchdown, Lead Referee, Joseph Conte, invoked the (40) point score differential “Mercy Rule” with the clock only stopping when a Time-out request was made. And that’s exactly what Coach Hernandez ordered in the final minute of play as their drive took them to the Birmingham 5 yard line. On first & goal, the Bulldogs ran a play to the 2 yard line. And Hernandez then called his final Time-out of the game with just (00:02) seconds left. The Bulldogs managed to score their second touchdown of the game when RB/#5/Damian Cornejo was called upon for the 2 yard run off-tackle. It was now Patriots 49, Bulldogs 13. No Point After Touchdown (PAT) was permitted by the Referee as time had officially run out, and thus, the game was over after that final play.
[FINAL SCORE]: Birmingham 49 Garfield 13
[SEASON-ENDING STAT]: The Patriots ended their CIF/LA City Section (CIF/LACS) regular and playoff season with a (9-4) overall record and the West Valley League Title with a (5-0) record. The Bulldogs ended theirs at (10-3) and claimed the Eastern League Title, with a (6-0) record.
[STATE PLAYOFF NOTE]: Birmingham participated in the CIF’s/State Regional Playoff Championship Tournament, with the North playing the South in more than (15) Divisions, for the right to compete in a State Championship Bowl game, in all respective Divisions.
In the State tournament bracket for the 3-A Division, Birmingham lost on December 3rd to Laguna Hills/Pacific League at home, by the score of (35-28). All teams were slotted based on competitive equity and the respective criteria.