Pac-5: Tesoro 24, Servite 20


COSTA MESA -- It's over. Servite's reign as the Pac-5 champion is finished. On a night when the Friars committed uncharacteristic turnovers, when there were no more magic comebacks, Servite fell to the third-place team from the South Coast league.

Obviously, Tesoro is not just any third-place team.

The Titans scored two touchdowns in the span of a minute, and Blake Rodgers -- in a substitute role -- reeled off a 51-yard touchdown with a little over five minutes remaining as Tesoro did what few others have done over the last three years.

Their 24-20 victory at Orange Coast College over Servite was as shocking, as stunning, as it was improbable. They trailed at halftime, 20-3, only to dominate the second half -- a trademark of Servite.

Basically, Tesoro beat Servite at its own game

"This is the biggest win in the program's history," said Brian Barnes, the first Southern Section coach to beat Servite since Sept. 25, 2009 when Edison scored a 23-9 victory that was later avenged in the Pac-5 title game en route to a Division II Bowl championship.

Over the last three seasons, Servite is 34-4, with additional losses to national powers Concord De La Salle in 2010 and Las Vegas Bishop Gorman this season. The Friars came into the game ranked No. 2 in the state and No. 21 nationally.

"They had everything to lose, we had nothing to lose," said Rodgers, also a linebacker, of his team's halftime attitude. "Defense, all we could think of was three and out or turnover."

Tesoro (8-4) will play the second-place team from the South Coast League, San Clemente, next week after the Tritons beat another team, like Servite (10-2), from the Trinity League, St. John Bosco.

"These guys have had a target on their back all year long, and they responded," said Troy Thomas, the Servite coach. "We just came up a little short."

It was a tough night for Servite's Cody Pittman, who threw three interceptions -- he had thrown only two in the first 11 games. He also fumbled on the game's pivotal play.

One minute after Tesoro opened the third quarter with a 14-play, 80-yard drive powered by Rodgers, who scored from three yards to make it 20-10, Pittman was sacked. He also fumbled as Kyle Woolbright jarred the ball loose. Jay Perez picked the ball up at the 20 and carried it in for a touchdown.

Just like that, Tesoro -- whose obituary was already being written by reporters at halftime -- was down 20-17 but carrying all the momentum.

Servite's Connor Bevans missed a 38-yard field goal, and two of Servite's remaining three drives ended in interceptions, by McQueen with 3:31 left, and Nick Crouch with 1:53 to go. Out of timeouts, Servite could only watch as Tesoro ended the Friars run.

Pittman was 15 of 24 for 122 yards, with 11 completions to Sam Hunt. Charlie Etiaki led a meager ground game; he carried 16 for 52 yards, while the Friars as a team carried 31 for only 89.

The offensive star was Rodgers, who came into the game after Nate Tago was knocked out of the contest late in the first half; Tago fumbled on the play and Jherremya Leuta-Douyere returned the fumble 24 yards to give Servite a 20-3 lead with 25 seconds to go. Tago left the game with 11 carries for 43 yards.

The injury changed Tesoro's fortunes because the Friars couldn't stop Rodgers, who carried 16 times for 107 yards, all but one yard in the second half. He scored twice.

In fact, both of Servite's scoring drives against a stellar Tesoro defense were short, 39 yards and 23 yards. Etiaki scored the first from nine yards for a 7-3 lead, and Neil Pauu's 47-yard interception return set up the second, a one-yard sneak by Pittman.

"They just got hot and made some plays and we didn't," Thomas said. "Tesoro did a geat job. They beat a really good football team tonight in my team. My hat goes off to them, they did a great job.

"Tesoro deserved to win tonight."