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GARDENA — Los Alamitos and Serra clashed Friday in arguably the most competitive bracket in the CIF-SS football playoffs.
Serra made a rare clash between the schools a memorable one.
The host Cavaliers scored two touchdowns early in the fourth quarter and running back Cincere Rhaney rushed for 207 yards and two scores as they raced to 38-28 victory in the Division 2 quarterfinals at Serra High.
“They have grit,” Serra coach Scott Altenberg said of his team’s fourth-quarter play. “That’s a champion-type mentality.”
No. 3-seeded Serra (9-3) advances to the semifinals next week to play Servite, which beat No. 2 Long Beach Poly 27-20 in another quarterfinal. The Cavaliers will be the home team.
The Cavaliers ended the game with questions about Rhaney’s status after he left late in the fourth quarter with an injury on a 42-yard run.
Los Alamitos (9-3) trailed 24-14 halftime but surged into the lead on a touchdown runs of 4 and 20 yards by quarterback Alonzo Esparza. The junior ran an up-tempo offense and helped the Griffins take their first lead 28-24 lead with 3:56 left in the third.
Serra, however, responded on the first play of the fourth period with a tough, 37-yard TD catch in tight coverage by CJ Mcbean from junior quarterback Jimmy Butler.
The Cavaliers then capitalized on the first turnover of the showdown to restore their 10-point lead. They recovered a fumble on a fake punt attempt at the Los Alamitos 34 and drove for a 1-yard TD run by Camron Harris-Willcot. Serra led 38-28 with 9:19 left.
One of the key matchups was Los Alamitos’ run defense against Rhaney.
The San Jose State committed running back came in with 1,671 yards and 20 TDs on the ground while the Griffins’ defense had allowed an average of only 64 yards rushing per game.
The theme surfaced in the first quarter as Rhaney broke an 80-yard TD run as Serra took a 14-7 lead. The burst along the sideline answered a second sack by Los Alamitos defensive lineman Andre Taylor.
Serra extended its lead to 17-7 by opening the second quarter with a 43-yard field goal Mcbean, a junior.
Los Alamitos needed a spark, and found it with a trick play on special teams. Lenny Ibarra broke a 37-yard run a fake punt that led to a 1-yard TD run by Anthony League, who cut Serra’s lead to 17-14.
Rhaney briefly left the game in the second quarter after a hard hit by Kamar Mothudi but returned to score on a 4-yard TD run from the wildcat formation as Serra took a 24-14 lead late in the first half.
Zacharyus Williams sparked the late scoring drive with his receiving.
Los Alamitos advanced to the quarterfinals after a fourth consecutive undefeated run through the Sunset League and defeating Upland 56-31 in the first round.
Serra finished second to Division 1 qualifier Sierra Canyon in the Mission League and handled league rival Bishop Amat 48-14 in the first round.
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