By Ernest Stone
Following a blocked punt, Mission High School got the ball on Balboa’s 8-yard line with 8:51 remaining in the game and a chance to bring the game to within a single touchdown.
Four plays and zero points later, Balboa made it clear to Mission that there was no chance for a comeback.
Whether it was Balboa’s stiffness on defense or its complex offensive schemes, Thursday’s 28-8 thumping of top-seeded and previously-unbeaten Mission in the Academic Athletic Association semifinals at Kezar Stadium avenged Balboa’s previous loss in grand fashion and proved just how much things can change in 12 days.
“All year long we had a hard time finishing games,” said Balboa senior captain Christian Pulusian. “But our team has improved so much, and our defense definitely held it down today.”
While fourth-seeded Balboa’s (5-7) defensive stand proved the team could close out games, Bucs senior running back Greg Warren proved he could take control of the contest himself.
Warren’s impact was first felt when his 20-yard touchdown run with 2:24 remaining in the second quarter put Balboa back on top 14-8, following a second-quarter surge by Mission (7-4).
A quarter later, Warren picked up nearly half of his 154 rushing yards on a 75-yard touchdown run to push the lead to 22-8.
With Warren’s impressive effort, it even seemed as if Mission’s lone bright spot of the night, a 116-yard performance by senior running back Davonta Gaines, was overshadowed.
“We go seven straight weeks without losing, then all of the sudden we are down,” said Mission head coach Joe Albano. “The feeling was new to us, and I think our players had a hard time dealing with this situation emotionally.”
Whatever emotion the Bears possessed was drained following their failed attempt to score within 8 yards of the end zone.
Unfortunately for Mission, the Buccaneers were more reluctant to forfeit their intensity.
On the ensuing drive, senior quarterback Kerati Apilakvanichakit accented a 90-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Pulusian, all but ending even the wildest hopes of a comeback.
For Mission, a team that assembled its best season in over 30 years with a regular season league championship, the loss should be met with some feeling of accomplishment.
As for Balboa, it will turn its attention to Washington in the AAA championship game on Thanksgiving.
“Yeah they beat us before, but I truly believe that every coach in this league does his best job to prepare his squad regardless of the history,” said Balboa head coach Alvaro Carvajal. “It takes a lot of composure to win the way we did, but as you can see in Kerati or Christian, we have the athletes to get the job done.”
B: 8:01 — Kerati Apilakvanichakit 8-yard run (Conversion failed)
M: 8:15 — Safety
M: 4:39 — Alec Tatum 5-yard pass from Davon Hargraves (Conversion failed)
B: 2:24 — Greg Warren 20-yard run (Apilakvanichakit run on conversion)
B: 4:28 — Greg Warren 75-yard touchdown run (Abraham Musalam pass from Apilakvanichakit on conversion)
B: 5:06- Apilakvanichakit 8-yard pass to Christian Pulusian (conversion failed)