Gardena Serra triumphs in a back-and-forth battle with Bishop Amat.
Kai Honda couldn’t see anything except the ball.
Moments earlier, with the score tied in Friday night’s matchup with La Puente Bishop Amat, the Gardena Serra do-everything running back had told coach Scott Altenberg his team needed to take a shot. So with a minute left, Honda burst into a seam route from the 45-yard line, sophomore quarterback Jimmy Butler lofting a pass deep that Honda thought he had no chance of catching.
He put his head down, sprinted as fast as he could and extended with the ball finding its way into his hands. Honda stumbled and fell inside the red zone before running back Cincere Rhaney put the finishing touchdown on a 27-21 Serra win.
With Serra’s record at 3-3 after forfeiting last week’s 13-7 win against Sherman Oaks Notre Dame because of an ineligible player, the Cavaliers were desperate, needing any strike of brilliance in a game that was slowly slipping from their fingertips. And the catch was a moment of focus that Honda said he had never felt before. “We had that mentality of, ‘We have to win,’” he said.
Things seemed peachy for Serra early. After Bishop Amat finally got on the board on an Aidan Ramos run to narrow the score to 14-7 early in the second quarter, senior state track-and-field champ Rodrick Pleasant burned for a 97-yard kickoff return touchdown.
“Hey man, I think the ball is going this way,” Honda recalled telling Pleasant, indicating to switch sides with him.
Good decision. Pleasant caught the kick and burst through the left sideline, juking and shoving and burning for a 97-yard touchdown for his second score of the night.
“It’s amazing,” Honda said of Pleasant’s speed. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Serra’s defense swarmed Amat in the first half, its passing game unable to get anything going under duress from junior linebacker Noa Keohuloa, who notched two massive sacks.
But at the start of the fourth quarter, chaos struck.
Waltzing down the left sideline for a long touchdown that would’ve given Serra a comfortable lead, the ball slipped out of Rhaney’s hands at the one-yard line, giving Amat possession after a touchback.
Amat couldn’t capitalize but got another chance after Butler threw an interception deep into a Serra drive. Junior quarterback Richie Munoz marched the Lancers right back down the field with junior Stacy Bey running relentlessly and punching in a short touchdown run to tie the score at 21-21.
But with all momentum seemingly against Serra, Butler marched the Cavaliers back down the field, delivering the deep shot to Honda to set up the clinching score.
“He’s a young guy, and he’s getting his feet under him,” Altenberg said pregame. “I’m proud of the way he battles, though.”
Rhaney ran in the final score and defensive back CJ McBean picked off a desperation pass from Richie Munoz on the next possession to seal the victory.