Defense lifts GHS into Open Division semifinals

Gardena quarterback Isaiah Kim prepares to pass during last Friday's CIF-L.A. City Section Open Division football quarterfinal game against Palisades. The Panthers defeated the Dolphins 14-10. Gardena will visit Garfield High in the semi-final Friday at 7 p.m. (Photo by Joe Snyder)

By Joe Snyder

Throughout this season, Gardena High’s football team thrived on defense for its most successful season in nearly a half of century and last Friday’s CIF-Los Angeles City Section Open Division quarterfinal home game against Palisades was no exception.

Behind several clutch defensive plays and two first quarter touchdowns, the Panthers held off the Dolphins 14-10 to move on to the semifinals where they will visit second seed Garfield High in East L.A. Friday at 7 p.m.

“It feels really good,” Gardena head coach Monty Gilbreath said. “We get good results on all the hard work they (the players) do. It was a great victory. I believe we have the best defense in the City. We did all we did to secure the win.”

Twenty-one of the game’s 24 total points were done in the first period and the final three quarters mustered just a second period 28-yard field goal by Palisades kicker Kellan Ford.

Gardena, which improved to 10-1 overall after tying Carson for the Marine League title at 3-1, started the scoring with 8:31 left in the first quarter on a 39-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Isaiah Kim to senior wide receiver Johan Wallace.

The Dolphins, the Western League champions who ended their season at 7-3-1, tied the game at seven on a 69-yard TD pass from senior quarterback Roman La Scala to wide receiver Jaden Williams.

Gardena’s eventual winning score was set up by a trick play where running back Xavier Grant, on a fourth down play, ran 15 yards for a first down. A few plays later junior running back Myles Mason scored on a 5-yard run giving the Panthers a 14-7 lead late in the first period.

In the second quarter, Palisades threatened as it drove to the Gardena 11-yard line but was stopped there sending Ford to connect on the field goal and that would be the final scoring of the contest.

From there, both defenses took over. There were threats by both teams but were stopped by clutch defenses and several penalties also holding them back.

However, it was defensive back Torey Pierce, who was unable to play earlier this season due to disciplinary reasons, who made a pair of key defensive stops, including a sack to La Scala with seconds to play that preserved Gardena’s win.

The Panthers’ defense, again, will have to rise to the occasion against the Bulldogs, who averaged approximately 50 points per game to 12 to their opponents as they, like Gardena, are also 10-1. In their quarterfinal last Friday at Garfield, the Bulldogs eliminated San Pedro 38-21.

Carson, the fourth seed, also won its quarterfinal at home over Granada Hills Charter 34-12 last Friday. The Colts move to the semifinals where they visit top seed and three-time defending City Open Division champion Birmingham Friday at 7 p.m. in Lake Balboa. The Patriots rolled over Narbonne 57-20 in their quarterfinal last Friday at Birmingham.


Serra advances to Division II semis

By Joe Snyder

Serra High’s football team rallied for two fourth quarter touchdowns to defeat Los Alamitos 38-28 in the CIF-Southern Section Division II quarterfinals last Friday at Serra.

The Cavaliers started off well leading 24-14 at halftime only to see the Griffins score two TDs in the third quarter for a 28-24 lead.

Down by four points late in the third period, Serra began its 82-yard drive which and took the lead for good on a 36-yard scoring pass from junior quarterback Jimmy Butler to senior wide receiver C.J. McBean with about nine minutes left in the game.

On the Cavaliers’ next drive, Butler completed some key third down passes to Zacharyus Williams before giving them a 10-point cushion on a 10-yard pass to Camron Harris-Wilcott.

Serra led 14-7 after the first quarter than a 43-yard field goal by McBean gave the Cavaliers a 17-7 second period lead. Los Alamitos, the Sunset League champion which averaged more than 50 points per game entering the contest, cut the Cavaliers’ lead to 17-14 but Serra upped its lead to 10 points shortly before halftime on a 4-yard touchdown run by Cincere Rhaney. Rhaney, who also scored in the first quarter, rushed for 201 yards and two TD’s.

Serra will get to host its third consecutive playoff game as it takes on Trinity League team Servite High from Anaheim Friday at 7 p.m. At Servite last Friday, the Friars rallied from a 20-13 halftime deficit to pull off a 27-20 overtime victory over second seeded Long Beach Poly, avoiding another popular Serra-Poly rivalry. The Jackrabbits already defeated the Cavaliers 28-14 in a game stopped at halftime due to unrests that occurred outside and inside Serra’s stadium because of thousands of fans who were unable to get into the stadium due to a sellout on Sept. 8. Serra is seeded third in the playoffs.

Meanwhile, top seed Rancho Cucamonga was also eliminated from the Division II playoffs after a 53-52 overtime loss to Murrieta Valley High last Friday at Murrieta. After the game what many saw that Murrieta’s winning touchdown was controversial, a brawl broke out between players from both teams that could see several Murrieta players ineligible to play their semifinal game where it hosts fourth seed Mission Viejo Friday at 7 p.m.

If Serra defeats Servite, it will play either Murrieta Valley or Mission Viejo at a site to be determined on Nov. 24.

Torrance, the top seed in the CIF-Southern Section Division X, also advanced to the semifinals after topping host Redlands 21-14 last Friday. The Tartars come home to play Hemet in the semis Friday at 7 p.m.


ECC cannot contain Hancock in finale loss

By Joe Snyder

El Camino College’s football team had a good offensive game but its defense could not contain Hancock College from Santa Maria in a 55-45 North National Conference finale loss last Saturday at ECC’s Murdock Stadium.

The Bulldogs, who finished second behind Ventura in the conference, scored on all but two of their possessions. The Warriors attempted to stay with them scoring six touchdowns and a field goal but it was short.

El Camino continued to have a fine performance by quarterback Dayton Tafoya who completed 25 of 41 passes for 319 yards and four TD’s. Joshua Lorick caught eight of those passes for 68 yards and three touchdowns. Bryant Williams caught five passes for 99 yards and one TD.

The Warriors, who are 6-4 overall after finishing North National action in fourth place at 4-3, trailed 7-6 after the first quarter but never could get over the hump against Hancock, who led the entire game.

The Bulldogs led 28-25 at halftime shortly after Lorick caught an 8-yard scoring pass from Tafoya, followed by a two-point conversion pass from Tafoya to Cole Fuller.

The second half began with Hancock scoring the first two touchdowns on a 69-yard pass from A.J. Veles to receiver Kevin Pettaway and a one-yard run by John Allen before ECC cut its deficit to 42-32 on a 27-yard scoring pass from Tafoya to wide receiver Bryant Williams.

From there after each El Camino TD, the Bulldogs (7-3 overall and 6-1 in conference) would answer back. Quarterback Jackson Clavel tossed a 7-yard scoring pass to Alex Sutton giving Hancock a 49-32 lead with 11:09 left in the game.

The Warriors got to within 10 points on a 9-yard touchdown pass to Lorick but the Bulldogs all but put away the contest as Harris scored from 24 yards out.

ECC finished off the scoring on a 2-yard run by Jakai Torres and, after that, attempted an onside kick which was recovered by Hancock.

Despite the loss, El Camino has a shot at a bowl game which was to be decided this week. The bowl game will be either this Saturday or on Nov. 25.

Local hoopsters ready to start play this week

By Joe Snyder

Gardena, North Torrance and Serra High boys’ and girls’ basketball teams start their season this week.

The Panthers’ boys’ team began their season at Dorsey High on Wednesday.

Last season, Gardena tied Long Beach Rancho Dominguez Prep for third place in the Marine League. The Panthers lost in the first round of the CIF-Los Angeles City Section Division I playoffs to Los Angeles Center of Enriched Studies (LACES). Gardena, though, had a fine showing in summer leagues and tournaments.

Serra started the season on Monday in the St. John Bosco Brave Tip-off Classic against Long Beach Cabrillo, before taking on Legacy from South Gate on Tuesday and last year’s CIF-State Division V champion Lynwood on Wednesday. The Cavaliers continue tournament play through Saturday.

North Torrance, which returns four starters from its Pioneer League championship squad that advanced to the CIF-Southern Section Division VAA semifinals and the CIF-Southern California Regional quarterfinals last season, will be contending for more titles. The Saxons begin at home against Eastside High from Riverside today at 6 p.m.

In girls’ basketball, North Torrance, last year’s Pioneer League co-champion with crosstown rival West Torrance, begins in the Redondo Battle at the Beach Classic against Westlake High next Monday at 3:30 p.m. The Lady Saxons will play a powerful Harvard-Westlake team from Studio City next Wednesday at the same time.

Serra, which came off its worst season in more than 20 years in 2022-23, hope to turn things back around as it takes on West Torrance in the first round of the Redondo Battle-at-the-Beach Classic next Monday at 6:45 p.m.

Due to its miserable 2-22 record including 0-10 in the Del Rey League, the Lady Cavaliers were moved down to the Camino Real League.

Under head coach McKenzie Hadley, who is in his 17th season, had Serra win two CIF-State championships and five Southern Section crowns.

Gardena, which finished fifth in the Marine League and made the CIF-L.A. City Section Division III quarterfinals where it fell to Washington, will host John Glenn High from Norwalk today at 5 p.m.