Keishawn Bierria victim of numbers game

NORWALK, Calif. -- The mere mention of USC brings a smirk to the face of Keishawn Bierria (Harbor City, Calif./Narbonne).

One of the fastest rising senior recruits in Los Angeles, Bierria has dreamed of storming through the Memorial Coliseum tunnel in the cardinal-and-gold uniform. But Bierria, like many other top-quality recruits in the area, appears to be a victim of USC’s strict scholarship limitations. Under normal circumstances, the three-star outside linebacker would be a likely candidate to snag a spot in the Trojans’ recruiting class.

The hope has dissipated this year.

“Every kid in high school thinks about playing at USC,” Bierria said. “I went to a few camps there and they were looking at me but, right now, it’s not looking like it will happen.”

While teammates Troy Williams and A.J. Richardson have been known commodities in the recruiting world the last few years, Bierria has silently carried his own weight on the defensive side for back-to-back CIF Los Angeles City Section champion Narbonne. Williams, a four-star quarterback committed to Washington, and Richardson, a three-star receiver headed to Cal, have received the headlines while Bierria has gone about his business.

On Saturday night, Bierria sparked a defensive effort that helped Narbonne (14-1) erase a 19-point deficit before his team fell in gut-wrenching fashion, 41-34, to Corona (Calif.) Centennial in the Southern California Regional Open Division bowl game at Cerritos College. UCLA assistant coaches Adrian Klemm, Demetrice Martin and Noel Mazzone watched intently from the sidelines.

“There’s nothing really new with my recruitment since I’ve been focusing on the season,” Bierria said. “I still have offers from UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, Cal and others, but I’m open to all schools. I’m kind of sitting around waiting for big offers to roll in but, if not, I’ll keep my mind open and take my trips. I don’t know what trips I want to take yet. My aunt actually told me I should probably start deciding on those. That’s my homework over winter break.”

If USC were to extend a scholarship offer, Bierria would entertain it just as he would any other, despite the childhood dreams.

“It would be just another decision I’d have to sit and think about,” he said. “A lot of players go to USC and sit on the bench. I would go in there, compete and fight for a starting position, do as much as it takes for as long as it takes. USC would be an option for me if they come around and offer.”

Bierria worked tirelessly to garner attention. While Williams and Richardson carried the offense this season, the linebacker recorded more than 100 tackles.

“To me, this year has showed me that if I work hard things will happen for me,” Bierria said. “And when things started happening, it was more than just me that I wanted to keep working hard for. A lot of guys are three-stars and under, there’s only a handful of guys that are four- and five-star recruits. I just wanted to prove that some of these three-star guys can really play with the big names.”

Narbonne trailed 27-8 at halftime, but stormed back to tie the game at 34 with just over a minute remaining. The defense, which usually operates in a zone scheme, switched into man-to-man coverage. Bierria stopped lining up against the slot receiver as he had done throughout the first half and crept into the box. Centennial’s run game disappeared.

But after Richardson scored the equalizer, Centennial quarterback Robert Webber capped a last-minute, 80-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Class of 2014 running back Tre Watson for the win. Centennial advanced to this week's state bowl game against perennial power Concord (Calif.) De La Salle.

Bierria consoled teammates but was proud about what Narbonne accomplished the last two years.

“Going back to back here is about us making history,” Bierria said. “Our names are forever in the record books. Us playing in this regional championship game is in the record books. I’m proud of my team. We did what no other city team could do this year. I mean, we didn’t finish it off, but we played as hard as we could play. We didn’t start out fast, but we finished hard. That’s what we want people to remember. We went out swinging.”