A group of Taft High football players were reaching for the Gatorade buckets to dump onto the shoulders of head coach Troy Starr with seven seconds left of Friday's CIF L.A. City Section Championship at the L.A. Coliseum.
And why not? All the Toreadors had to do was basically get off a punt from their own 32-yard line and kill seven seconds to secure a 14-13 victory over Dorsey.
But the Dons turned those seven seconds into a highlight reel play for the ages. Isaac Garden's punt was partially blocked, the ball tumbled high in the air and it landed at about the 15-yard line. A wild scramble for the ball ensued with at least one player from each team getting their hands on it. The ball finally wound up in the end zone and it looked like a Taft player had it (which wouldn't have mattered in who won the game since Dorsey would have gotten a safety). But Dorsey's LeMark Henderson emerged with the ball. The referees signaled touchdown and Dorsey had won the game and the section title, 19-14.
Before the incredible ending, the game was one of those in which one team dominated the first half and the other dominated the second half.
Dorsey was the first-half team as the Dons held Taft's offense to just 44 yards. They took a 13-0 lead at halftime on the strength of a two-yard run by Jermaine Moore and on a 34-yard touchdown pass from Theron Shakir to Marques Binns.
Taft got untracked in the second half by driving for 70 yards on its first series (a drive that was stopped on downs at the Dorsey 10-yard line) and then going 61 yards for a touchdown on its second series. Justin Tryron capped that drive with a one-yard run and scored on a two-yard run with 6:30 remaining the game to tie the score. Garden booted through the PAT for the lead.
Dorsey had negative yardage for the half at that point, but then hit a big play on a 57-yard pass from Shakir to Jerome Johnson that put the ball on the Taft 7-yard line. That chance, and it appeared Dorsey's season, was over when Jesus Jimenez missed a 31-yard field goal attempt with 2:44 left. Taft got one first down in its attempt to kill the clock, but that was on its first play. A delay of game penalty set the stage with seven seconds left for the final climactic play.
Another key for Dorsey's victory, which gave coach Paul Knox's program his first L.A. City title since 1995 and his fourth overall, was the Dons' defense against Taft junior wideout sensation Steve Smith. While Smith was able to catch 12 passes, he only accumulated 73 yards and did not score. Shakir actually almost matched Taft's Cary Dove in passing with 126 yards to 134.
Elk Grove cruises in Sac-Joaquin final
There was no monkey business in this year's CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Div. I football championship for the favored Elk Grove Thundering Herd. Playing on the same University of Pacific turf in which they were upset in last year's title game by Lincoln of Stockton, the Herd played more solidly on Friday night and rolled to a 34-12 victory over Fairfield.
Junior running back Tyrice Daniels, who scored five touchdowns in Elk Grove's semifinal win over Johnson of Sacramento, only had one against Fairfield. But fullback Allen Murray came up with two scores and quarterback Brandon Gross threw for one TD and ran for another.
Elk Grove, which was No. 7 in this week's state overall top 20, finished 14-0 and won its third section title in five years.
All-Ocean League final won by Santa Monica
Going into the game, Santa Monica senior QB James Cooper had thrown for nearly 2,000 yards with 33 TDs and only two interceptions but on the Vikings first two drives he threw to the wrong colored jerseys.
In the second period, however, the Viking leader righted the ship and helped Santa Monica essentially put the game away with 20 consecutive points.
Cooper connected on a five yard fade pass to receiver Terell Maze with 4:54 in the second quarter after tiny but quick tailback Derrick Davis put the visitors on the board with a three-yard burst only a minute and a half into the second stanza.
Davis added another three yard touchdown with 46 seconds left in the quarter, but the PAT was missed on a long kick due to an illegal celebration.
That was only one of a myriad of penalties, which may have outnumbered the points on this night. There were infractions from clippings, holdings, too many men on the field, offsides, illegal procedure; just about anything the officials were trained to call.
Still there were some impressive athletic plays including the score that sealed the game for Santa Monica.
Late in the third quarter, the Vikings were facing a third and 21 from the North Torrance 41 yard line when Cooper reared back under pressure and heaved a deep pass to receiver Charles Gordon who caught it on the five and skirted untouched into the end zone to put Santa Monica ahead 28-0
North Torrance avoided a shutout with two Kenny Brown aerial strikes of 13 and 35 yards in the fourth quarter, but it was too little too late as Santa Monica topped the Saxons for the second time of the year.
Earlier this season, Santa Monica beat their divisional rivals 23-20.
Santa Monica finished its season 11-2 while North Torrance fell to 12-2.