CORONA – Centennial jumped to a big lead early, stumbled as Orange Lutheran clawed back within eight points early in the second half, then erupted for four consecutive touchdowns to secure a 63-39 victory in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 football quarterfinals Friday night.
The Huskies improved to 9-2 and punched their ticket for a matchup against St. John Bosco in the semifinals. The Braves, ranked No. 3 in the nation by MaxPreps.com, defeated San Clemente 35-10 Friday.
For Orange Lutheran, Centennial was the big fish the Lancers almost reeled in, only to have their trophy catch snap the line and swim away as they hauled it over the transom.
For Centennial, the Lancers were prey to be toyed with before swallowing the meal whole.
Orange Lutheran trailed 35-20 at halftime but scored on the first possession of the third quarter to shave the Huskies’ lead to 35-27.
Then Centennial running back Cordell Hatcher II broke their hearts.
On the first play of the next series, Hatcher broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage, another one in the secondary, and then outran the Lancers’ defense for an 80-yard touchdown that stunned the Lancers’ sideline into silence.
Its confidence restored, Centennial scored on its next three possessions to remain undefeated against Orange Lutheran in six meetings.
Hatcher rushed for 187 yards and five touchdowns on 15 carries in three quarters of work.
“It hurts, you know?” Lancers coach Rod Sherman said. “It seems like you’re getting close and then, all of a sudden, they pop one. They’re athletic, they create so many big plays. But that’s why they’re ranked in the top 20 in the nation.”
Orange Lutheran finishes the season with a 5-6 record.
Lancers quarterback T.J. Lateef threw for 335 yards and three touchdowns on 25-of-40 passing. He was intercepted once, by Tayten Beyer, whose 26-yard return in the second quarter set up a 14-yard touchdown pass from Husan Longstreet to Noah Westbrook that pushed Centennial’s lead to 28-7 with 6:38 to play in the half.
Longstreet’s quick passes and timely, accurate deep throws kept Orange Lutheran on its heels. Longstreet completed 19 of 22 passes for 327 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Cory Butler Jr. caught six passes for 114 yards, including a 39-yard snag and sprint for a score. Tavian McNair caught five passes for 110 yards and a touchdown.
Despite gaining 555 yards on offense, Centennial coach Matt Logan knows there is much room for improvement before taking on St. John Bosco, ranked No. 1 in California by CalPreps.com.
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“We’re still a work in progress, like everyone else is, too. We’re definitely not the finished product,” Logan said. “For a good four to five weeks we were playing high-level ball, and then I thought Week 10 we were OK, going into the bye week, and I don’t like the bye week. You don’t get to quite the level I think you want to be at.
“I think we responded well tonight,” Logan said. “When things weren’t going well and we scored a touchdown and then we got a stop, and we were able to get some separation at that point.”
Centennial bolted to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter on touchdown runs of 26, 2 and 17 yards by Hatcher and led 28-7 before Orange Lutheran started to find its stride. The Lancers scored on their next two possessions, on a 1-yard run by Steve Chavez and a 10-yard strike from Lateef to Chris Flores Jr., to cut Centennial’s lead to 28-20 with 28 seconds left in the half.
That was plenty of time for Centennial. Longstreet hit McNair with a 46-yard pass, then again on the next play for a 13-yard touchdown for a 35-20 lead at the break.