Night game. Homecoming. Honored alums. Lots going on.
What could possibly go wrong?
For the Serra football team, plenty. Big plays and a turnover saw the Padres staring at their first real adversity of the season, but they overcame a two-touchdown deficit, scored four unanswered touchdowns and then withstood a late Mitty onside kick to pull out a 35-29 win in San Mateo Friday night.
“Very chaotic game,” said Serra head coach Patrick Walsh. “It’s possible hubris crept in (to the players’ minds).”
Serra (3-0 WCAL, 6-0 overall) will savor this one because despite trailing 21-7 four minutes into the second quarter, the Padres didn’t panic. The defense went to work, holding Mitty (2-1, 4-2) in check before the Serra offense finally got into a rhythm. Serra scored a pair of touchdowns to tie the game at 21 by halftime and then scored a touchdown in each of the final two quarters to take a 35-21 lead with 7:09 to play in the game.
But Mitty drove the length of the field for a score, converted the 2-point play and lined up for an onside kick — that was scorched out of bounds.
Serra went to the “victory” formation and that was it.
While Mitty ended up with 338 yards of offense, the Monarchs had only 138 and 1 yard rushing at halftime. Take away an 80-yard drive on the Monarchs’ final possession and the Padres held them to 254, with seven sacks and two forced fumbles.
“We held them to 8 points in the second and that’s what won the game,” Walsh said.
Offensively, Serra quarterback Daylin McLemore was accurate and effective, completing 18 of 21 passes to six different receivers for 204 yards and a touchdown. The Padres also utilized a running-back-by-committee approach. Hassan Mahasin led the way with 68 yards on five carries, while Jackson Lataimua added 66 on five rushes as well. McLemore finished with another 41 yards rushing on 12 carries.
The Padres probably knew they were in for a weird night when they bit on a Mitty trick on the seventh play of the opening drive. A double reverse turned into a flea flicker back to quarterback Shamir Bey, who found a wide open Reymello Murphy streaking down the field, who made the catch and waltz into the end zone.
“That was a great play,” Walsh said. “Sometimes the other team makes plays.”
After an exchange of punts, Serra tied the score when Lataimua capped a nine-play, 94-yard drive with a 5-yard run. The big play of the drive was a 45-yard gallop from Muhasin down to the Mitty 22.
The Monarchs went three-and-out on their next possession to open the second quarter and punted the ball away. Terence Loville fielded the ball around his own 25 and started working his way back toward the opposite sideline.
Twisting and turning Loville refused to go down. Suddenly, Mitty’s Zach Tabangcura was sprinting the other way. He had stripped Loville of the ball from behind and turned it into a 35-yard fumble return for a 14-7 Mitty lead.
The Padres looked to get the score back when Loville took the ensuing kickoff at the goal line and exploded 100 yards for the score — only to see the ball come back because of block in the back at the Padres’ 39.
Serra went three-and-out and punted the ball back to the Monarchs. On the second play of the ensuing drive, Bey found Murphy on a slant route. He made the catch, took a bone-crunching hit from the safety, bounced off him and went 54 yards for the score and a 21-7 lead with 8:34 left in the first half.
Bey finished with 268 yard passing, with Murphy catching four balls for 128 yards and two touchdowns.
It took a play of the year to finally get the Padres untracked. After a Nate Sanchez kickoff return gave Serra possession at midfield, it took three plays before Loville made a catch for the ages. McLemore appeared to have overthrown a wide open Loville in the end zone, but the 6-0 receiver was at full stretch and got his right hand on the ball. He batted it up in the air and, as he was falling into the end zone, grabbed the ball with both hands and maintained possession after hitting the ground for an unbelievable 38-yard scoring strike.
Now the Padres were fired up. The defense forced a Mitty punt and the offense took over at their 33. Serra methodically moved the ball downfield, mixing and matching passes and runs. It culminated with a Sanchez 4-yard run to tie the score at 21 with under a minute in the half.
Serra maintained the momentum to start the third quarter. Lataimua opened the second half with a 43-yard scamper on the first play to kick off a 68-yard, six-play scoring drive that was punctuated by a Sanchez 6-yard run to give the Padres their first lead of the game, 28-21.
They pushed it to 35-21 with just over seven minutes to play when Muhasin bolted into the end zone from 14 yards out to cap a 12-play, 86-yard drive.
Mitty put together one last drive, going 80 yards on 17 plays, but could not recover the onside kick.
“We knew these guys (the Monarchs) were tough,” Walsh said. “That’s WCAL football at its finest. Every WCAL win is a good one. They come in different ways.”