GARDENA -- Domonique Vaughn and Tavita Tua'au did their best to hide the oversized bucket of Gatorade from Scott Altenberg. And it nearly worked, that is, until the Serra High football coach saw the two lineman coming in his direction.
Altenberg avoided most of the messy downpour, but the celebration took place nonetheless after the Cavaliers defeated visiting Arroyo Grande with relative ease on Friday night, 35-10, to successfully defend their Southern Section Western Division title.
"I tried to dip and duck at the last second, but what the heck, a little Gatorade never hurt anyone,'' Altenberg said. "What a win. What a feeling.''
Serra's George Farmer was feeling pretty good during the postgame festivities as well. After all, the senior wide receiver, one of the top recruits in the country, committed to USC prior to the kickoff.
"USC is a good fit for me, the campus is right in my backyard and I feel comfortable with the coaching staff,'' Farmer said. "I spoke with Lane Kiffin before the game tonight and told him that I was a Trojan.''
Arroyo Grande’s Seth Jacobs fumbled to open the fourth quarter and Woodson Greer recovered the ball at the Eagles' 30-yard line. And it didn't take long for Serra to score as Conner Preston connected with Marqise Lee on a 17-yard touchdown to give the Cavaliers a 35-3 lead with 8:34 remaining in the game.
With the game's outcome no longer in doubt,Brent Vanderveen threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Garrett Owens to cut the insurmountable Serra lead to 25 points with 3:24 left in the fourth quarter.
"We came into this game knowing that we weren't going to lose,'' Farmer said. "Winning back-to-back titles was our goal all season and we finally accomplished it. We're the best, No. 1.''
Farmer appeared to score in a 60-yard punt return midway through the third quarter, but a penalty nullified the long touchdown. Instead, Serra started at its own 18-yard line and began mounting a drive that ultimately stalled when Preston was stopped on a fourth and seven at the Eagles 25-yard line.
Staked to 21-3 lead in the second quarter, the Cavaliers refused to slow down their high-powered offense. Accordingly, Preston found Lee wide open for a 15-yard touchdown to not only increase the lead to 25 points with 6:43 left in the first half, but also essentially break the spirit of Arroyo Grande.
"I mean, who goes out and wins two championships in-a-row? We do.'' Lee said. "We made sure to stay level-headed all year long, now it's time to enjoy things. Our hard work paid off.''
For as bad as things were for the Eagles in the first half, they could have been worse. The Cavaliers moved the ball down to the Arroyo Grande 10-yard line with less than a minute left in the second quarter, but they failed to capitalize on the opportunity when Francisco Ollouqui missed a 27-yard field goal.
When all was said and done, the Eagles had 48 yards of total offense and managed mere two first downs in the first half.
In comparison, Serra's Shaquille Richard gained 109 yards on the ground by himself over the course of the opening 24 minutes of play. Arroyo Grande had no answer for the senior.
"I owe a lot to my line, they were opening up the holes, all I had to do was run through them, it was that easy,'' said Richard, who finished with 162 yards on 23 carries.
Following a first quarter punt, Arroyo Grande received the ball back on the Serra 37-yard line. Three relatively unsuccessful running plays later, the Eagles faced a crucial fourth and two situation. Instead of going for the first down, they ended up letting the play clock run out and were assessed a 5-yard penalty.
It didn’t matter, Owens trotted out and booted a 51-yard field that would have seemingly been good from 55 yards out to give Arroyo Grande a surprising 3-0 advantage with 6:23 remaining in the first quarter.
Serra answered, Richard in particular. The senior gained 47 yards on three carries to set up a 16-yard touchdown pass from Preston to Lee. And all of sudden, the lead was 7-3 with 4:16 left in the first quarter.
The Cavaliers were just getting started.
Farmer appeared to return a punt deep into Arroyo Grande territory. However, a pair of costly penalties backed Serra up to its own 13-yard line. Minutes later, Farmer was on the receiving end of a 59-yard touchdown pass from Preston to extend the advantage to 14-3 with :52 remaining on the first quarter clock.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Eagles’ L.T. Johnson fumbled the ball. Pete Lauderdale was in the right place at the right time, scooped up the miscue and returned the ball 27 yards for a score to give the Cavaliers a 21-3 with :39 left in the first quarter.
Preston finished 9-of-20 for 155 yards. Lee had three receptions for 48 yards. Farmer ended up two catches for 64 yards.