Commentary

De La Salle starts slow, sprints to title

Spartans rally from 14-0 deficit to beat Crenshaw for Open Division crown

Updated: December 21, 2009, 3:31 AM ET
By Pedro Moura | Special to ESPN Los Angeles

CARSON, Calif. -- Crenshaw tailback DeAnthony Thomas' first carry in Saturday's CIF Open Division state championship game went for 43 yards and a touchdown.

On the Cougars' next possession, Thomas took a fourth-down pitch around the end for a 10-yard score to give Crenshaw a 14-0 lead over Northern California power De La Salle.

But that would be it from the highly touted L.A. city prospect known to many as "Black Mamba," and the Spartans took advantage, using talented tailback Terron Ward to wear down the Cougars' defense.

Ward rushed for 165 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries, powering De La Salle to a 28-14 comeback victory in front of 16,910 people at the Home Depot Center. It was the first loss on the season for Crenshaw, which reeled off 14 consecutive wins in reaching the bowl game.

"We underestimated them," Crenshaw senior tailback Geoffrey Norwood said. "We came out strong, and when we were up 14-0 it was, 'All right, we got this, they're not as tough as we thought.'

"But then we let up, and they came out and proved us wrong."

De La Salle (13-2) has appeared in all four state bowls since the inaugural in 2006. It was the first appearance for Crenshaw (14-1), and the school was garnering quite a bit of publicity in recent weeks due in large part to Thomas, who is being eyed by recruiters at USC, UCLA and a host of other schools across the nation.

But the 5-foot-9, 160-pound dynamo sprained his left ankle playing cornerback late in the first half and was limited for the rest of the game. He finished with 73 yards on just six carries. "The boy got wheels," Ward said. "He's a real speedster."

Ward, sporting No. 28 and listed at 5-7 and 170, continued to pound on the Cougars' defense until the fourth quarter. He scored both of the Spartans' touchdowns in the second half -- one on a 26-yard burst that got the crowd roaring in the third quarter.

"Basically, it was our No. 16 versus their No. 28," said Thomas, who wears No. 16. "And I guess he fought harder than me."

Crenshaw quarterback Marquis Thompson completed 18 of 30 passes for 178 yards and two interceptions. Cougars receivers Gregory Ducre and Geno Hall caught six passes each for a total of 125 yards.

Thompson's counterpart, Spartan quarterback Bart Houston, threw only 10 times for 86 yards, and backup tailback Ryan Anderson added 90 yards on 14 carries and a key interception on defense.

Norwood replaced Thomas in the second half, rushing for 40 yards on 15 carries. But he couldn't get into the end zone for Crenshaw.

The backbreaker for the Cougars came when Ward punched into the end zone on a 4-yard sweep to make it a two-touchdown game with three minutes remaining.

"I knew we were gonna have our hands full with Crenshaw this week, and we did," said De La Salle coach Bob Ladouceur, who had his record 151-game winning streak snapped earlier this decade. "They had great athletes who were tough-nosed and they played good defense."

The effort was not lost on Crenshaw coach Robert Garrett, who expressed optimism about the team's chances of returning to a bowl game in 2010. Both Thomas and Thompson have a year remaining, although Ducre and Hall are seniors.

"We got beat by a great team," Garrett said. "Although we lost on the scoreboard, we're winners in our heart.

"And we'll work hard to get here next year."

Anaheim Servite 33, Rocklin 30: Anaheim Servite (14-1) used a last-second field goal by Nicholas Echeverry to battle past Rocklin in the Division II championship game.

The Friars had led 30-10 earlier in the game before Rocklin (14-1) used a furious run to create an exciting finale at the Home Depot Center.

Servite senior quarterback Cody Fajardo rushed for 82 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. He also completed 12 of 21 pass attempts for 182 yards and a touchdown.

With Rocklin quarterback Jimmy Laughrea out with a broken arm, tailback Jackson Cummings had 29 carries for 159 yards and two touchdowns, including a 1-yard score that tied the game with nine minutes remaining.

Consecutive turnovers -- one from each side -- gave Servite the ball at the Rocklin 27-yard line with less than two minutes remaining.

A well-executed drive later, and Echeverry kicked the 23-yarder that gave the Friars the victory.

Servite is ranked as high as second nationally by some recruiting services.

Pedro Moura is a junior at USC. He has covered the Trojans since 2008 and also reports on high school sports. Moura is a native Angeleno.