VENTURA – Oaks Christian quarterback Brandon Dawkins said his team was flustered, a little surprised and came out cocky against St. Bonaventure in the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Northern Division playoffs on Friday night.
The Seraphs jumped out to a 10-point lead in the first half, but Oaks Christian scored two touchdowns in the first six minutes of the third quarter and eliminated St. Bonaventure from the playoffs, 27-24, at Ventura High School.
Dawkins passed for 195 yards and a touchdown. He rushed for 74 yards and scored two more on the ground. Dawkins peppered St. Bonaventure with an array of screens and quick-outs to chew up the clock and engineered two long drives that produced key touchdowns against a stingy St. Bonaventure defense.
Oaks Christian coach Bill Redell agreed with Dawkins that his team didn’t play well in the first half of the game.
“I don’t have an answer for it,” Redell said. “We have been playing well in the playoffs. We didn’t play like we should have.”
Oaks Christian (11-2), the No. 7 ranked team in the ESPN Los Angeles high school football rankings, had every reason to play with confidence against St. Bonaventure (10-3). Two key starters for the Seraphs had to sit out the game with injuries from the quarterfinals against Canyon last week.
Marc Evans, the starting quarterback for the Seraphs, did not play because of a shoulder injury. Nick Arbuckle, the back-up quarterback and starting tight end, was making his first start of the season.
In addition, David Barajas, St. Bonaventure’s highly recruited, 6-feet-2, 300-pound, offensive guard, did not dress for the game against Oaks Christian.
Even without Evans and Barajas, St. Bonaventure, the No. 8 ranked team by ESPN Los Angeles, took control of the game early. Brandon Rominger gave the Seraphs a 3-0 lead with a 27-yard field goal midway through the first quarter.
Oaks Christian took a brief 7-3 lead on a 15-yard touchdown catch by Robert Morgan at the end of the first quarter.
St. Bonaventure regained the lead on a 39-yard touchdown run by Shaun Wick early in the second quarter. It was his first of two long touchdown runs. He scored again five minutes later on a 25-yard run that gave St. Bonaventure a 17-7 lead.
That was about the time when the Oaks Christian players realized St. Bonaventure was not about to go gently into that good night. The Lions awoke and raged against the dying of the light.
Dawkins led Oaks Christian on a 12-play drive that chewed up nearly five minutes of the second quarter and ended with a 1-yard quarterback sneak for a touchdown.
Oaks Christian cut the St. Bonaventure lead to 17-13, but missed the point-after try. The Seraphs went into halftime with a four-point lead.
Oaks Christian mounted another long drive to open the second half. Dawkins led his team 64 yards on 11 plays and capped the drive with a two-yard touchdown run by Carlos Mendoza.
Oaks Christian took the lead again, 20-17, with 8:33 to play in the third quarter.
It took Oaks Christian only two plays to score on its next drive. Chris Davis threw a 37-yard pass to Jordan Payton on a halfback option and gave Oaks Christian a first-and-goal on the one-yard line of St. Bonaventure.
Dawkins punched the ball in the end zone for his second rushing touchdown of the game. Oaks Christian went up 27-17 with 6:12 to play in the third quarter.
That was the last touchdown for Oaks Christian. St. Bonaventure, on the other hand, had one more scoring drive left.
Bryce Dixon caught a 37-yard touchdown pass from Arbuckle with 1:34 to play in the game. The touchdown cut Oaks Christian’s lead to three points, 27-24. Arbuckle finished 16-of-30 passing for 248 yards.
“He did pretty well for a back-up quarterback,” St. Bonaventure coach Todd Therrien said.
During the drive, St. Bonaventure receiver Montre Lee hurt his elbow. The game was delayed about 20 minutes while paramedics attended to Lee. He was taken off the field in an ambulance. Therrien said after the game that Lee either broke or dislocated his elbow.
After Dixon’s touchdown, St. Bonaventure successfully recovered an onside kick and regained control of the ball on the Oaks Christian 47-yard line. But the final St. Bonaventure drive ended on the 42-yard line.
Oaks Christian took over on downs with 40 seconds left in the game. St. Bonaventure had two timeouts left and were able to force Oaks Christian to punt with 11 seconds left in the game.
The last play of the game ended when St. Bonaventure tried to return the punt, but only made it to midfield as time expired.
Oaks Christian, the reigning Northern Division champion, will play Westlake, the No. 1 ranked team in the ESPN Los Angeles high school football rankings, in the championship game at Oaks Christian on Friday night. Oaks Christian beat Westlake, 29-28, to win the Northern Division championship last year.