NORWALK, CA- Centennial-Corona star quarterback Tanner McKee, a gametime decision, warmed up and hyped teammates minutes before their fifth consecutive CIF Southern Section semifinal matchup with St. John Bosco-Bellflower. As team captains approached midfield for the ceremonial coin toss, however, McKee stayed on the sideline.
A nasty hit to the head during Centennial’s quarterfinal victory over Murrieta Valley kept McKee out of the semifinal, which proved to be too much for the Huskies to overcome.
Bosco dominated Centennial in a 62-34 blowout victory to reach its fifth straight CIF title game. Unbeaten Mater Dei awaits, for a Trinity League rematch Saturday night.
D.J. Uiagalelei torched Centennial for 382 total yards of offense and five touchdowns, three passing and two rushing. Junior running back George Holani added 117 yards and three scores, on 10 carries. Wideout Jake Bailey caught six passes for 100 yards and a touchdown.
“We had a great game plan, all the coaches put us in great positions, and our offensive line just keeps ballin’,” Uiagalelei said.
Bosco head coach Jason Negro added: “We were so locked in and focused throughout the entire week with what we wanted to accomplish, and our kids really took it to heart.”
Herrera led Centennial with 184 yards passing, 57 rushing and two scores. Octavio Cortes scored one touchdown, rushing for 114 yards on 21 carries. Centennial finishes the 2017 season with a 10-2 overall record, falling to Bosco in the semis for the second season in a row.
Bosco jumped out to a 27-0 lead, and as time winded down in the second quarter, Centennial needed a spark to show some life. A forced fumble gave Centennial great field position inside the Bosco 30-yard line, and they overcame two crucial fourth downs to drive inside the five. Herrera gave Centennial its first points of the night, dashing into the end zone to make the score 27-7 with 1:09 left.
Bosco faced a fourth-and-11 on its own 19-yard line, and Negro kept his offense on the field. Centennial came up with a huge stop to reclaim possession, and knocked in a field goal to cut the deficit to 27-10 at the half.
Centennial opened the third quarter with a shocking onside kick, catching Bosco completely off guard. The Huskies recovered the kick to place them at the 48-yard line, with loads of momentum on their side.
A defensive pass interference call advanced Centennial inside the Bosco 30-yard line, and two Cortes carries later, they found themselves the red zone. Four plays later, Derrick Valencia converted on a 25-yard field goal to make it 27-13 with 8:40 left in the quarter.
Bosco failed to pick up a first down on a fourth-and-three, giving Centennial another possession. Gary Bryant made things very interesting moments later, with a 35-yard touchdown catch and run to make the score 27-20.
After a false start penalty set Bosco inside its own 15, Uiagalelei broke free for a 44-yard keeper to set the Braves up at the 41-yard line. On the next play, Uiagalelei threw a 41-yard bomb to Jake Bailey, extending Bosco’s advantage to 34-20 with five minutes remaining in the third.
Centennial was forced into a quick three-and-out, and punted to Bosco’s Eli DeRoon, who took the ball 12 yards back to set the Braves up inside the enemy 35-yard line. Holani followed with a 19-yard carry, and two plays later on a third-and-five, maneuvered to the one-yard line. Junior receiver Josh Delgado finished the drive for Bosco, scoring to put the Braves up 41-20 with 1:36 left.
A wild third quarter ended with even more scoring, after Centennial turned the ball over on downs, setting up a 38-yard Holani touchdown run one play later.
The Huskies began the fourth quarter at their own 21-yard line, and drove inside the Bosco 10. Two plays later, Cortes scored again from two yards out to make the score 48-27 with 9:34 remaining.
Uiagalelei broke the game open with a 77-yard touchdown run, and Centennial’s Thomas Kinslow fired right back with a touchdown run of his own.
In the other Southern Section semifinal clash, between national number one Mater Dei and undefeated Mission Viejo, Mater Dei prevailed 49-21, setting up a highly anticipated rematch of last year’s championship.
“Back in October when we lost to Mater Dei we were really upset, but we knew if we put the work in we’d have an opportunity to play them again,” Negro said.
“This is what we’ve wanted all season, and if we come out and execute, I think we can beat them,” Uiagalelei added.