They clinched the American Division Pacific Conference championship and earned a berth in next week's American Division Championship Bowl game.
Pierce (7-3, 5-1) literally held on by its fingertips, as the difference in the outcome was a blocked extra point by Pierce's Franky Anaya with 5:20 left. Pierce had held a 17-0 lead in the first quarter, but Valley (6-4, 4-2) scored a pair of touchdowns and seemed about to tie the score when Anaya's fingertips allowed Pierce to keep the lead.
"It's a just a matter of dropping your shoulder, getting your hand up and praying to God you're in the right place," according to Anaya, who blocked his 8th kick in his two years at Pierce.
For much of the night, it didn't look like Pierce would need such a dramatic play to come away with the victory. Johnson led the Brahmas to a field goal on the first possession to open the game. Then after a Valley punt, Johnson threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Damon Julian to make it 10-0. After another Valley punt, Johnson scored on a 4-yard run to make it 17-0 late in the first quarter.
"I was just out there playing football, going through my reads" said Johnson of his early production which saw him pass for 155 yards in the opening quarter alone.
Valley finally got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter, sparked by a 32-yard kickoff return by Kenny Boggs to the Monarch 44. That led to a 6-play, 56-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 1-yard scoring run by Germi Morrison that made it 17-7. However, Johnson answered with a 34-yard touchdown pass to Tyrone Harris that restored Pierce's 17-point lead, making it 24-7 with 2:38 left in the first half.
After that, however, Valley started chipping away at the Pierce lead. And the Brahmas proved to be a stationary target, not scoring again the rest of the night.
Valley got a big play from Jeremy Monegan, who intercepted a pass by Pierce's backup quarterback, Daniel Berhe (who entered the game briefly while Johnson tended to a minor eye injury), and returned it to the Brahma 32. Three plays gained just nine yards, but then Agustin Flores kicked a 33-yard field goal with 10 seconds left in the half to make it 24-10 at the break.
Valley continued its comeback in the third quarter, scoring the only points in the frame when Dan Owen threw a 59-yard touchdown pass to David Valencia to make it 24-17. That came one play after an interception by Glendall Whirley on a pass that tipped off the Pierce receiver's hands and gave the Monarchs the ball at their own 41.
As time wound down, neither team scored again until Valley got an 11-yard touchdown pass from Owen to Travion Odom with 5:20 left. A short punt gave Valley the ball at the Pierce 44, and a 15-yard penalty against the Brahmas moved the ball to the 29. Then a 19-yard run by Morrison gave the Monarchs a first and goal. Three plays later, Odom scored what appeared to be the game-tying touchdown, pending the extra point.
Anaya made sure that extra point never happened. That allowed the Brahmas to keep a one-point lead.
And Pierce, after taking the ensuing kickoff, drove down the field, seemed primed to put the game out of reach with another touchdown. The Brahmas reached athe Valley 5-yard line, and two plays later Johnson tried to score on a keeper. He went to the ground at the 3, and the ball came out, scooped up by Valley's Chuck Obi. The whistle blew, and at first the officials ruled Johnson down and the play over.
After a conference, however, the officials reversed their preliminary call and (correctly) ruled that Johnson had fumbled and that Obi had recovered for Valley. Obi had appeared on his way to a long return, but that part of the play was negated by the whistle, so Valley had the ball back but at its own 3 yard line with just 1:07 left on the clock.
And that proved to be too big a hurdle for the Monarchs to overome. A 15-yard penalty on Pierce got the Monarchs to the 18, and an 8-yard pass from Owen to Odom moved the ball to the 26. Then Odom threw a 4-yard pass to Jon Hilliger to get a first down at the 30. However, Owen's next three passes fell incomplete, and on fourth down, unable to find an open receiver, he tried to gain the needed ten yards but was stopped well short, turning the ball over to Pierce, which ran out the clock.
For Pierce, Johnson finished 15 for 31 passing for 240 yards and 2 touchdowns, and he also rushsed for 47 yards and a touchdown on 8 carries. Julian led all receivers with 7 catches for 123 yards. Daniel Lopez led all rushers with 85 yards on 24 carries. And on defense, Clifford Johnson stood out, intercepting one pass and making an excellent play to tip the ball away from a receiver and to Jonathan Tinajero for another interception.
For Valley, Owen finished 13 for 32 for 175 yards passing and 2 touchdowns. Valencia had 77 yards and a touchdown from two catches. Morrison led Monarch rushers with 59 yards on 16 carries, and he also had 5 catches for 40 yards. Monegan had two of the Monarchs' three interceptions.
With the win, Pierce clinches the Pacific Conference championship and will take on San Bernardino Valley in the American Division Championship Bowl next Saturday.
L.A. Pierce Brahmas 24
L.A. Valley Monarchs 23
Saturday, November 13, 2010 – 6 pm - Monarch Stadium, Valley Glen
American Division - Pacific Conference
P - FG Sandoval 26 yds 12:42 (3-0)
P - Julian 5 yd pass from E.Johnson (Sandoval kick) 6:22 (10-0)
P - E.Johnson 4 yd run (Sandoval kick) 0:39 (17-0)
V - Morrison 1 yd run (Flores kick) 13:11 (17-7)
P - T.Harris 34 yd pass from E.Johnson (Sandoval kick) 2:38 (24-7)
V - FG Flores 33 yds 0:10 (24-10)
V - Valencia 59 yd pass from Owen (Flores kick) 2:20 (24-17)
V - Odom 11 yd pass from Owen (kick blocked by 64-Anaya) 5:20 (24-23)
First Downs: LA Valley 16 (5 rush, 6 pass, 5 penalty), LA Pierce 24 (10 rush, 12 pass, 2 penalty)
Rushes-Yds: LA Valley 29-89, LA Pierce 45-174
Passing Yds: LA Valley 175, LA Pierce 260
Comp-Att-Int: LA Valley 13-32-2, LA Pierce 16-33-2
Return Yds: LA Valley 150, LA Pierce 129
Sacks-Yds: LA Valley 1-2, LA Pierce 2-13
Fumbles-Lost: LA Valley 2-1, LA Pierce 1-1
Penalties-Yds: LA Valley 7-54, LA Pierce 14-170
Time of Possession: LA Valley 25:01, LA Pierce 34:59
Rushing: V 3-Morrison 16-59, 11-Owen 10-16, 30-Sibrian 1-7, 25-Boggs 2-7; P 28-D.Lopez 24-85, 3-E.Johnson 8-47, 22-King 4-22, 13-J.Johnson 8-21, team 1-(-1)
Passing: V 11-Owen 13-32-2-175, 2 TDs; P 3-E.Johnson 15-31-2-240, 2 TDs; 7-Berhe 1-2-1-20
Receiving: V 3-Morrison 5-40, 21-Odom 4-42, 12-Valencia 2-77, 82-Hilliger 2-16; P 18-Julian 7-123, 6-T.Harris 4-66, 1-K.Davis 1-20, 13-J.Johnson 1-15, 24-Ingram 1-15, 7-Berhe 1-13, 80-Cartwright 1-8
Interceptions-Ret Yds: V 7-Monegan 2-51, 8-Whirley 1-0; P 23-Tinajero 1-5, 14-C.Johnson 1-0
Fumble Rec-Ret Yds: V 47-Obi 1-0; P 9-Middleton 1-0
Sacks-Yds: V 18-Martinez 1-2; P 55-Bennett 1-7, 43-Harmon 1-6
Punters: V 30-Sibrian 5-32.4 avg; P 60-Goldman 3-35.7 avg
Kick Returns: V 24-Thomas 4-56, 25-Boggs 1-32; P 6-T.Harris 3-64, 80-Cartwright 1-34
Punt Returns: V 24-Thomas 1-1; P 29-Travers 1-26
Notes:Showdown! Both teams entered 6-3 overall and 4-1 in conference and this was for the conference championship and a berth in next week's bowl game. Pierce entered ranked #13 in the South; Valley entered ranked #17. C.Johnson tipped the ball that Tinajero intercepted for Pierce. Valley's 2nd TD came after Monegan's 2nd int. Valley's 3rd TD came one play after Whirley's int. But the difference was the blocked extra point, which was Anaya's 8th blocked kick in two seasons at Pierce.