Mt. SAC faced Cerritos for the second straight year, but this game bore absolutely no resemblance to last year's 51-0 drubbing. The teams scored early, with Mt. SAC scoring all of its points in the first half, but Cerritos not only stayed close but had multiple chances to win, having four different possessions after drawing within a field goal midway through the third quarter.
And the game was not without controversy; Cerritos' receiver Robert Abeyta, who scored the Falcons' first touchdown of the day, fought through a double-team and hauled in what appeared to be a 51-yard catch before being forced out of bounds near the Mt. SAC 1 yard-line with 1:50 left. But the officials ruled he pushed off and flagged him for offensive pass interference, negating the catch and penalizing the Falcons 15 yards. Williams' game-clinching interception came two plays later.
The last three-plus quarters were in direct contrast to the way the game started. Mt. SAC took the game's opening kickoff and, sparked by a 35-yard return by Williams, scored just 1:28 into the game on a 7-yard pass from Cameron Deen to Agwuenu. Cerritos answered with a quick, 8-play drive and a 49-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Denker to Abeyta just 2:17 later to tied the score at 7. Then Mt. SAC, sparked by another good return by Williams, took a 14-7 lead on a 2-yard scoring run by Bobo with 5:59 left in the first quarter.
However, after that, points were few and hard to come by for both teams. Mt. SAC got a 30-yard field goal from Abraham Torres early in the second quarter to make it 17-14, and those would be the Mounties' last points of the game. Travis Coons missed a 39-yard field goal try with 4:06 left in the half, and that would be Mt. SAC's last serious scoring chance.
And yet the Mt. SAC defense was even more dominant, not allowing Cerritos a single first down on the next seven possessions except for two that came via penalties on the Mounties. Cerritos got the ball at its own 42 after a 15-yard penalty on a punt return, and got 10 yards closer on consecutive off-sides penalties on Mt. SAC's Koliniasi Leota. But the Falcons ended up punting the ball away and still trailed, 17-7, at the half.
The Cerritos woke up with a bang on the Falcons' second possession of the second half when Denker found a wide-open Clark Evans for a 55-yard pass play to break the first-down drought. Five plays later, Denker threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Lavulo to make it 17-14 with 9:06 left in the third quarter.
And neither team scored again. Mt. SAC reached the Cerritos 22 on its next drive, but eventually punted the ball away after a couple of penalties. Mt. SAC also reached the Falcon 21 early in the fourth quarter, but another penalty short-circuited that drive, resulting in another punt. Cerritos got the ball back twice after that, including one final time at its own 14 with 3:58 to go, a possession that included the offensive pass interference call and the game-clinching interception.
For Mt. SAC, Michael Botello rushed for a game-high 74 yards on 13 carries and was named the game's MVP. Deen completed 15 of 29 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown to Agwuenu, who had 3 catches for 32 yards and a 13-yard run on an end-around and was named Offensive Player of the Game.
And Williams had a huge game with the two kick returns and two interceptions, including the all-important game-clincher. On that pick, at first it looked like he had returned it for a touchdown before being ruled to have gone out of bounds at the Cerritos 29. That development actually benefited Mt. SAC, which then just had two snap the ball two more times to run out the clock without another Cerritos possession.
For Cerritos, Denker completed 11 of 22 passes for 156 yards and 2 touchdowns. Evans had 3 catches for a game-high 67 yards. Cory Westbrook had 17 carries for 49 yards. Defensive Tackle Fred Lavulo was named Defensive Player of the Game.
The win advances Mt. SAC to its fifth straight state championship game, which will be played on December at Ram Stadium in San Francisco against City College of San Francisco. Mt. SAC romped past CCSF, 34-7, in last year's state championship game that was played at Mt. SAC, but CCSF edged the Mounties, 31-28, in the 2007 title game. Mt. SAC topped CCSF, 34-31, in 1997 in the first state championship game of the modern era.
Cerritos finishes 8-4 after having its 6-game win streak snapped. The Falcons had a remarkable turnaround after starting the season with a 2-3 record, putting together a win streak that included capturing the National Division's North Conference and a playoff win last week over Palomar.
Mt. San Antonio Mounties 17
Cerritos Falcons 14
Saturday, November 26, 2011 - 1 pm - Hilmer Lodge Stadium, Walnut
Southern California Championship Game
M - Agwuenu 7 yd pass from Deen (Coons kick) 13:32 (7-0)
C - Abeyta 49 yd pass from Denker (Valencia kick) 11:15 (7-7)
M - Bobo 2 yd run (Coons kick) 5:59 (14-7)
M - FG Torres 30 yds 13:03 (17-7)
C - J.Lavulo 4 yd pass from Denker (Valencia kick) 9:06 (17-14)
First Downs: Mt. SAC 17 (9 rush, 8 pass), Cerritos 11 (4 rush, 4 pass, 3 penalty)
Rushes-Yds: Mt. SAC 41-156, Cerritos 33-121
Passing Yds: Mt. SAC 135, Cerritos 156
Comp-Att-Int: Mt. SAC 15-29-0, Cerritos 11-22-2
Return Yds: Mt. SAC 198, Cerritos 70
Sacks-Yds: Mt. SAC 0-0, Cerritos 1-1
Fumbles-Lost: Mt. SAC 3-1, Cerritos 0-0
Penalties-Yds: Mt. SAC 13-112, Cerritos 5-45
Time of Possession: Mt. SAC 32:19, Cerritos 27:41
Rushing: M 32-Botello 13-74, 20-Bobo 15-46, 11-Deen 6-15, 1-Agwuenu 1-13, 9-Magalei 2-8, 82-Taylor 1-4, 10-Tillman 1-(-1), team 2-(-3); C 3-Westbrook 17-49, 26-Long 4-31, 7-Denker 5-22, 22-Livingston 6-17, 21-Bernard 1-2
Passing: M 11-Deen 15-29-0-135, 1 TD; C 7-Denker 11-22-2-156, 2 TDs
Receiving: M 6-Duncan 4-34, 1-Agwuenu 3-32, 20-Bobo 2-6, 9-Magalei 1-16, 3-Lomu 1-11, 88-Rhodes 1-10, 10-Tillman 1-9, 82-Taylor 1-9, 84-Cochran 1-8; C 5-Evans 3-67, 2-Anderson 3-20, 18-J.Lavulo 3-16, 11-Abeyta 1-49, 22-Livingston 1-4
Interceptions-Ret Yds: M 21-Williams 2-40; C none
Fumble Rec-Ret Yds: M none; C 7-Gill 1-0
Sacks: M none; C 8-Malone 1-1
Punters: M 49-Colby 7-35.9 avg; C 12-Lewis 6-35.2 avg; 7-Denker 1-42
Kick Returns: M 21-Williams 2-65, 33-Aukusitino 1-37; C 10-Bratcher 2-37, 21-Bernard 1-26
Punt Returns: M 3-Lomu 2-37, 16-Gage 1-19; C 15-Chambers 2-(-2), 7-Gill 1-9
Missed FG: M 30-Coons 39 yds (wide right)
Notes: Mt. San Antonio entered 10-1, t-#1 in the South, #4 in the nation; Cerritos entered 8-3, #4 in South and #10 in the nation. MVP: Botello, Mt. SAC. Offensive Player of the Game: Agwuenu, Mt. SAC. Defensive Player of the Game: 66-F.Lavulo, DT, Cerritos. Abeyta made what appeared to be a 51-yard catch to the Mt. SAC 1 with 1:50 left but was called for offensive PI; Williams' game-clinching interception came two plays later. The win puts Mt. SAC into the state championship game for the 5th straight year (6th overall) and will face CCSF for the 2nd straight year (4th time overall).