SAN MATEO — Championship moments come in all shapes and sizes. For Serra on Saturday, with the skies gray, the wind howling and the rain coming down sideways, the moment lasted more than 7 1/2 minutes and ended with a touchdown that clinched another crown.
Serra beat San Joaquin Memorial 28-18 to claim a third California Interscholastic Federation Northern regional championship in four seasons — this one in Division I-A, the highest yet for the San Mateo school.
The Padres will culminate their run next Saturday against Corona del Mar for the 1-A state title at Cerritos College in Norwalk.
Corona del Mar rallied to beat Oceanside 14-7 on Saturday night.
Serra raced to a 14-0 lead in the first four minutes and had an answer for every San Joaquin Memorial rally, whether it was Terence Loville returning an interception for a touchdown or the 86-yard, 14-play drive that put the game away.
“Championship drive, championship mentality,” coach Patrick Walsh said. “Playing for one another. All the things that we talk about. I don’t even really remember it. It was just almost awe-inspiring.”
San Joaquin Memorial, a team that features a Washington commit at receiver and a Stanford commit at defensive end, pulled to within 21-16 on a 3-yard run by Jordan Hornbeak with 11:27 to play.
Serra (13-1) started the next series at its 14. There was 11:22 on the clock.
So began the march to Southern California.
Third-and-5 from the 35: Dominique Lampkin, the sophomore quarterback making his sixth start since replacing injured star Daylin McLemore, throws a screen pass to Nate Sanchez for 9 yards.
Third-and-11 from the San Joaquin Memorial 45: Loville makes a leaping 19-yard catch to move the chains and keep the clock rolling.
“I just knew whatever I had to do to keep us in this game and not let San Joaquin get the ball again,” Loville said. “Keep the momentum going in our favor.”
Fourth-and-2 from the San Joaquin Memorial 18: Hassan “The Missil3” Mahasin takes a pitch to the left and carves through a crease for 5 yards and another first down.
Second-and-2 from the 5: With Walsh, as he so often does with his team in front late in games, ordering his offense to take every second off the play clock before snapping the ball, Jackson Lataimua finally got it. He took the pitch and rumbled through the middle for the touchdown that made it 28-16 with 3:47 left.
San Joaquin Memorial (12-2) marched downfield again, reaching the Serra 20 with 1:45 remaining. But on the next play, David Silk picked off a pass in the end zone to keep the double-digit margin.
A safety accounted for San Joaquin Memorial’s final points, but that hardly dampened the mood on the Serra sideline.
Soon, the Padres charged onto the field to hoist the regional championship trophy and then hustled back into their dry locker room underneath the bleachers for Walsh’s moving postgame address.
Serra has gone 5-1 since McLemore suffered a broken collarbone, enough time for Lampkin to transform from a wide-eyed newcomer to something much more.
“I’ve grown a lot,” Lampkin said. “I feel like I’ve turned from a child to a grown man. I had to step up to the plate.”
Lampkin had the Padres sizzling early against San Joaquin Memorial. A screen pass near the left sideline to Mahasin turned into a 40-yard connection and a 7-0 lead.
Serra recovered a fumble on San Joaquin Memorial’s ensuing possession.
On the next play, Lampkin dashed 51 yards through the middle for a 14-0 advantage with 8:04 left in the opening quarter.
Finn Collins got San Joaquin Memorial back to within a touchdown when he completed a 46-yard touchdown pass to De’Von King. Collins threw for 129 yards in the first quarter but cooled as the conditions deteriorated.
A 24-yard field goal by Carlo Bravo made it 14-10 early in the second quarter.
The score did not change until Loville stepped in front of a receiver near the sideline for an interception and dashed 28 yards into the end zone, widening Serra’s cushion to 21-10 with 3:11 left in the third period.
“The coaches on the sideline said, ‘Look for the out on the corner,'” Loville said. “When I saw the quarterback’s hips turn, I knew it was coming, and I had to take it back to the house.”
Back in the locker room after the game, with the eyes of his players taking in every word, Walsh reminded the team that it had stretched this season as far as it can go.
The finish line for the 2019 Padres will arrive next Saturday night with a state championship on the line.
“What you’re about to go through, not many people get to go through it,” Walsh told the team. “You’re going to be able to count these moments on one hand in your lifetime. I don’t mean that as a depressing thing. We know when we’re going to die. We know the end of the dash is going to be 7 p.m. on Saturday.
“So why don’t we live each moment like it is the last. I feel so blessed to have that opportunity with all of you.”