(Highland Park, CA)—The date was Friday, 11/22. The 7 pm game was an L.A. City Section, Division II Semi-Final contest against the Jefferson High Democrats, and the playing site was at Home. With the awareness of the high-valued stakes at hand, Head Coach Narciso Diaz and his Franklin Panthers proudly and confidently took the field in front of their faithful student-body, their greatly supportive Administrative staff, (composed of Principals, teachers, counselors, athletic directors), and members of the long-established fan base from the Highland Park community. With that “game-day” scenario in mind, the Panthers subsequently scored a “must” and decisive win over the Democrats by the final score of (45-14). And with that victory, they have now set their sights on the upcoming Championship game on Saturday, 11/30. In addition to the big crowd turnout, the game was also “Live Streamed” over the NFHS Network.Com in Affiliation with East L.A. Sports Scene Productions.
(Brief Game Preview): The Panthers earned themselves the home field advantage up to this point as the #1 seed for the D-2 playoffs by posting up an outstanding (10-2) overall season record. They were successful in earning consecutive playoff victories over Verdugo Hills and Marshall, thus earning the right to confront Jefferson, representing the Exposition League, in this Semi-Final game. On the other hand, the Democrats rolled to very convincing wins over South East and Wilson to earn their spot.
(Brief Game Summary): 1st Half -With 8:56 in the opening period, #26/RB/JR/Angelo Vera scored his first of four rushing TDs from 5 yards out. The PAT by #19/PK/SR/Mauricio Zuluaga was perfect, (7-0). Then, on the Demos drive after the kick-off, they fumbled the snap on second down and #2/QB/JR/Frederick Louden ended up losing the ball in the back of the end zone for an automatic touchback, worth 2 points, (9-0), Panthers. With 4:22 remaining, Vera again slashed in from 4 yards out for a (13-0) lead. Zuluaga added the PAT, (14-0) Franklin. To start the second stanza, #11/QB-DB/SR/Alfred Bobadilla scored on a perfectly executed “Blind Bootleg” call, (22-0) and the Zuluaga PAT was good again, (23-0). The Demos finally got on the board at the 9:50 mark when #18/WR/SR/James Jones III scored on a 7 yard pass from #2/QB-DB/JR/Frederick Louden. The PAT was good from #62/OL-PK/JR/Carlos Villegas, (23-7). After a rare 4th down punt by the Panthers, the ensuing return at the 8:05 mark by #3/RB-DB/SR/Desmon Martin was an electrifying and highly successful 87 yard TD. Villegas added the extra point cutting the lead to (23-14). Capping off the first half scoring was Zuluaga when he was asked to kick a 30 yard field goal, and he delivered with an exact try.
HALFTIME SCORE: Franklin 26 Jefferson 14
2nd Half – The Panthers defensive running game dominance up front, led by #12/OLB/SR/Hugo Escobedo and #74/DE/SR/Jovany Aguilar resulted in a shut-out of the Demos in this half. Meanwhile, in the secondary, the aggressive play of #7/MLB/JR/Billy Martinez plus two interceptions by #20/DB/SR/Brian Pelayo, provided Bobadilla and his offensive unit two more scoring drives. With 4:02 left in the 3rd period, the Panthers scored from 4 yards out on another “ground & pound” drive when Vera scored his third TD of the game, moving the score to (32-14). The extra point was unsuccessful. Then, with :45 seconds left in the period, Vera added his fourth TD of the game on a short 4 yard burst for a (38-14) score. The PAT was good for a (39-14) lead. In the 4th quarter, Bobadilla put up his only passing TD of the game when he found his tight end #28/TE-DE/SR/Isaac Rodriguez open in the end zone after he leaked out from the line of scrimmage for the 11 yard score. The Panthers, per Coach Diaz’s decision, declined to attempt the 2 point conversion in a fitting tribute to sportsmanship. At the 4:45 mark left in the game, the officials, in consultations with both Head Coaches, ruled that the “Mercy Rule” of running the game clock out, would be enforced.
FINAL SCORE: Franklin 45 Jefferson 14
Coach Diaz had this to say about his huge victory…“It was an exciting game for our players, fans, and community. I also would like to say hats off to Jefferson. They were a very physical and talented team, but we knew that our discipline would work to our advantage in the long run. We focused on stopping their run game while shutting down their air game. Our interceptions created key turnovers which gave us excellent field position for critical moments of the game.” Regarding their Finals opponent, Canoga Park, Coach Diaz added that…“this will certainly be our biggest test of the season, but it’s one that we’ll be ready for. We know that Canoga Park has played well all season long and they come in with very good athletes on both sides of the ball. Our final goal from the start of the season is now just before us and we’ve worked extremely hard to achieve playing in the Final for our school, alumni, and fans.”
Game Statlines: *Offense/Alfred Bobadilla/25-35/300 yds/13.0 yds ave. per pass/1 Passing TD/QBR =115.5%; Angelo Vera/91 yds rushing/5.4 ave./4 TDs/24 points; #3 Chris Jauregui/10 recps/167 yds/ave. 16.7; #2 Christopher Quijada/6 recps/72 yds/ave. 12.0 yds; Mauricio Zuluaga/4-4 PATS/1 FG-30 yds/7 points; *Defense/Hugo Escobedo/5 tkls/3 solo-2 assts/5 sacks; Billy Martinez/6 tkls/2 solo-4 assts; Brian Pelayo/7 tkls/4 solo-3 assts/2 INTs.
Next Up: L.A. City Section’s Division II Championship vs. the Canoga Park Hunters game, Saturday, 11/30, to be played at El Camino College. Kick-off is set for 2:30 PM
Photo Credit: Bob Bernal Jr., Eastsidemedia.Tv/Courtesy of Erik Sarni