Orange Lutheran entered the fourth quarter trailing by 11 points but rallied to win Saturday night’s Southern Section Division 2 championship game, scoring 22 points in the final 12 minutes to stun top-seeded and host Mission Hills Bishop Alemany 38-35.
Logan Gonzalez completed 19 of 38 passes for 240 yards and four touchdowns, Desmin Jackson had 135 yards and the winning touchdown in 25 carries, and Jaylen Lynch had four receptions for 75 yards and two touchdowns for Lutheran (10-4).
Floyd Chalk finished with 233 yards and four touchdowns in 22 carries for Alemany (8-4).
Jackson scored on a 27-yard run to give the Lancers an 11-point lead with just more than two minutes left, but the Warriors would not go down without a fight.
Chalk’s four-yard run and a two-point conversion catch by Ephesians Prysock pulled the Warriors to within 38-35 with 1:15 left.
But Hayden Faraday recovered the ensuing onside kick at midfield, and the Lancers ran out the clock.
Since switching from a pass-oriented offense after a nonleague loss to Mission Viejo in September, Alemany had been unstoppable on the ground, and its potent rushing attack was on display again.
Chalk capped a 10-play, 80-yard march with a bruising 18-yard touchdown run to set the tone on the Warriors’ first possession. They had won seven games straight games — all by 10 points or more — in their fourth season under coach Casey Clausen, who played quarterback at Alemany from 1997 to 1999 before starring at the University of Tennessee and then playing in NFL Europe.
Chalk burst 41 yards untouched up the middle to increase the Warriors’ lead to 13-3 midway through the second quarter. Lutheran answered when Lynch made a diving catch in the end zone on a 19-yard pass to pull the Lancers to within 13-9, but the extra- point attempt was blocked by Damonic Williams.
Alemany drove to the Lancers’ eight-yard line before Jaylen Thompson fumbled and Orange Lutheran recovered. However, the Lancers failed to pick up a first down and the Warriors got the ball back at the Lancers’ 35, and on the sixth play of the ensuing drive Chalk scored his third touchdown on a 10-yard run to increase the Warriors’ lead to 20-9. Chalk, who entered the game averaging 8.9 yards a carry and 156.6 per game, had racked up 170 yards by halftime.
Dieter Kelly booted a 36-yard field goal to get third-seeded Lutheran on the scoreboard late in the first quarter. Gonzalez, who came into the game having thrown for 3,271 yards and 38 touchdowns, got off to a slow start, connecting on only six of 18 passes for 87 yards in the first half.
Lutheran captured its third CIF title, having won the Southern Section Division VI title in 2004 and the Pac-5 title in 2006 under former coach Jim Kunau. The Lancers went on to claim the Division II state bowl championship in 2006 on the arm strength of quarterback Aaron Corp, who is now the Lancers’ offensive coordinator. First-year head coach Rod Sherman guided the Lancers through a grueling Trinity League schedule and to playoff victories over Simi Valley, Corona del Mar and Sierra Canyon before beating the No. 5-ranked team in California.
“Going into the fourth quarter, our coaches told us to give it all you’ve got,” Lancers wide receiver and defensive back Malik Blackmon said. “We’re used to playing tough teams. We’ve wanted this forever. We wanted it more than them. The plan was to stuff the hole on their runs and make them pass more than they wanted."
Lutheran pulled to within 20-16 on its first drive of the second half on an acrobatic 34-yard touchdown catch by Faraday. Chalk rumbled for 59 yards on the first play of Alemany’s next drive, and two plays later quarterback Dylan Gebbia dashed 19 yards on a keeper to restore the lead back to 11 points.
Blackmon caught a two-yard touchdown strike from Gonzalez, who then lofted a two-point conversion pass to wide-open tight end Jace Rodriguez to pull Lutheran to within 27-24.
Chalk fumbled on the first play of Alemany’s next drive, and linebacker Jayden Niumata recovered at the Alemany 20. Faraday made a one-handed catch on the next play, and the Lancers took the lead 31-27 with 6:55 left.
Alemany has posted a 38-13 record since Clausen took the helm after having gone 11-19 without a playoff appearance in the three years before he arrived. The Warriors were vying for their first CIF crown and were playing in their first final since 2009, when they lost to Mira Costa 24-21 in the Western Division.
"Multiple turnovers and missed opportunities were the difference,” Clausen said. “They made more plays than us. All credit to them. We had the ball in their territory several times with a chance to put the game away and couldn’t do it. I’m really proud of our senior class and how far they’ve come.“
Orange Lutheran advances to a CIF Southern Regional bowl game next week.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.