Los Angeles Preps: Cody Pittman

O.C.: The Top 10

November, 13, 2011
Cody Pittman's pass to Ainslie Johnson for a two-point conversion in overtime gave Servite a 43-42 victory over Santa Margarita in one of the season's great games. Despite the loss, Santa Margarita certainly justified its move up to No. 2 last week.

1. (1) Servite (9-1)
Friars got a two-point conversion in overtime to extend Trinity League winning streak to 19 games and polish off a seventh consecutive league title behind behind Cody Pittman, who rushed for 100 yards and passed for 239. Next: vs. Long Beach Wilson at Cerritos College, Friday, 7:30 p.m.

2. (2) Santa Margarita (8-2)
Johnny Stanton gave Servite all it could handle; he rushed for 133 yards and passed for 275 in a losing effort. Last: lost to Servite, 43-42, in overtime. Next: vs. Bishop Amat at Saddleback College, Friday, 7 p.m.

3. (3) Mission Viejo (8-2)
Diablos put the finishing touches on their third consecutive South Coast League title as six different players scored and the first-team defense didn't allow a score. Last: beat Trabuco Hills 42-7. Next: vs. Long Beach Cabrillo, Friday, 7:30 p.m.

4. (4) San Clemente (9-1)
Tritons, after losing the league title to Mission Viejo, had two weeks to get ready for Tesoro, then played like they made the most of their practice time. Last: beat Tesoro, 31-6. Next: vs. Lakewood, Friday, 7:30 p.m.

5. (5) Orange Lutheran (6-4)
Lancers have victories over La Habra and Mater Dei, but they couldn't keep pace with Bosco's explosive offense though trailing by a touchdown going into the fourth quarter. Last: lost to St. John Bosco, 48-28. Next: Season concluded.

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CIF-SS playoffs: Pac-5 Division

November, 13, 2011
CIF-SS playoffs:
Pac-5 Division
There was no mystery as to who the top-seeded team would be. Servite is the two-time defending champion, and the Friars only loss was at nationally ranked Las Vegas Bishop Gorman on a last-minute field goal, 31-28. This is a tough division, and the thinking is that at least seven teams have a legitimate shot of winning the title. There were no at-large berths, but there were six quality teams/programs that didn't make it: Crespi, Notre Dame, Los Alamitos, Trabuco Hills, Orange Lutheran and Mater Dei. That should give you an idea of what's in store.

The seeds: 1. Servite (9-1), 2. Mission Viejo (8-2), 3. Long Beach Poly (9-1), 4. Alemany (8-2).

Best first-round matchup: St. John Bosco (7-3) at Alemany (8-2) -- Bosco finished third in the Trinity League, but its losses were by eight points to both Servite and Santa Margarita. The Braves are loaded with skill players, including receiver Bryce Treggs and quarterback Rene Medina, and running backs DaVonte Young and Royce Moore. Alemany lost its two games by a combined two points; that's how close it was to being undefeated. Seven starters are back on defense from last year's semifinal team that lost to Servite, 28-21; the offense is paced by quarterback Devon Dunn and a group of terrific receivers led by junior Steven Mitchell. There could be a lot of points scored in this game. There will be a lot of points in this game.

Toughest road: Alemany (8-2) has it pretty tough among the seeded teams. Not only does it have to get past Bosco in the first round, it's likely looking at high-scoring San Clemente (9-1) in the second. That's a heck of a price to pay for winning the Serra League title. As long as San Clemente and quarterback Travis Wilson don't have to face Mission Viejo in the finals -- the Tritons have lost 11 in a row to Mission -- they could win the whole thing.

Potential shocker: Tesoro vs. Edison at Orange Coast College, first round -- Edison won the Sunset League title behind QB Chase Favreau, and though it was within a touchdown of Servite and lost to Mater Dei on the last play, it's no lock to advance to a rematch against the Friars. Tesoro gave the game game away to second-seeded Mission Viejo two weeks ago in a 14-7 loss, and though there are 16 underclassmen starting, if this is the week they mature as players, the third-place team from the South Coast League could find itself advancing instead of the Sunset League champion.

Darkhorse: Unseeded Santa Margarita (8-2) might legitimately be the second-best team in the division behind QB Johnny Stanton and RB Ryan Wolpin, but was hurt by an uninspired Trinity League loss to Mater Dei. The Eagles closed the season with another loss, 43-42, in overtime to Servite. If they can play with Servite -- and the only difference was a two-point conversion -- they can play with anyone. A second-round game against Long Beach Poly is finals-worthy.

Final analysis: After the first round, this division is brutal from top to bottom, and for some it's brutal from the outset. Heading into the final week of the season, nine of the 16 teams that were ranked in the Cal-Hi Sports Open Bowl Division top 25 ranking.

Championship prediction: Until someone in Southern California proves it can beat Servite, it's hard to pick against the Friars. They have won the last two Pac-5 titles, and behind quarterback Cody Pittman and linebacker Butch Pauu nearly went undefeated despite playing the state's strongest schedule. Make no mistake, Servite can be beaten -- but it takes a special performance to do so. The Trinity League finale was a pretty good indication of what it will take, and even that wasn't good enough. Chances are that Santa Margarita gets a second crack with an upset of Mission Viejo in the semifinals. Servite 34, Santa Margarita 28.

Link to the Pac-5 bracket on CalPreps.com
Servite footballAlex Gallardo for ESPNLosAngeles.comServite quarterback Cody Pittman (12) rushes the ball during Friday's game against Santa Margarita.

CERRITOS -- No guts, no glory.

Down by one point in overtime, Servite quarterback Cody Pittman rolled to his right, made his reads, and hit Ainslie Johnson in the end zone for a two-point conversion.

It was the only thing that separated top-ranked Servite from Santa Margarita, the No. 6 team in the ESPNLA Top 25, in a 43-42 victory at Cerritos College on Friday night.

"I didn't want to face their offense again," said Servite coach Troy Thomas, whose team came into the game ranked No. 2 in the state and didn't like the prospect of trying to stop the Eagles again.

When Servite (9-1, 5-0) begins its quest for a third consecutive Southern Section Pac-5 title next week, the Friars will be the top-seeded team. Santa Margarita will be the second-place team from the league, and No. 18 St. John Bosco, by virtue of its 48-28 win over Orange Lutheran, will be the third-place team.

It was the 19th consecutive Trinity League victory for Servite, which won outright its seventh consecutive league title -- all since the arrival of Thomas.

Pittman rushed 18 times for 100 yards, and also completed 20 of 23 passes for 239 yards and two touchdowns.

Pittman was complemented by Mana Pauu, who rushed for three touchdowns, of 10, 3 and 3 yards. He carried 16 times for 62 yards.

Pittman's performance overshadowed an extraordinary effort by Santa Margarita's Johnny Stanton who rushed for three touchdowns and passed for another, a screen that went for 60 yards to Ryan Wolpin. Wolpin also scored on runs of one and five yards.

Stanton completed 19 of 27 passes for 274 yards, and he also rushed 25 times for 133 yards. He scored from seven yards with 1:50 left in the game to tie the contest at 35-35.

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No. 1 Servite 35, Mater Dei 28

November, 5, 2011
Butch PauuMartin Henderson for ESPNLosAngeles.comButch Pauu was big on defense for Servite and also caught a blocked punt in the end zone for a touchdown.

ANAHEIM -- The annual rivalry between Servite and Mater Dei didn't disappoint those who braved the threat of rain at Angel Stadium on Friday. Never mind that Mater Dei came in with a losing record or Servite came in as the No. 1 team in the ESPNLA top 25. When the cleats hit the turf, the so-called holy war exceeded expectations.

Turning back momentum to come from behind in the third quarter, Servite scored a 35-28 victory over the Monarchs as Cody Pittman passed for one touchdown and ran for another, and Charlie Etiaki rushed for touchdowns of 72 and 52 yards.

The victory for Servite (8-1, 4-0) was sweet on several levels. It was the Friars' third win in a row over their nemesis after losing 20 consecutive years. More important, it clinched at least a share of a seventh consecutive league title since the hiring of coach Troy Thomas, who breathed a heavy sigh after his team won its 18th consecutive Trinity League game.

Servite closes the season next week against Santa Margarita (8-1, 3-1) at Cerritos College.

With its loss, valiant as it was following a 28-0 defeat a week ago against Orange Lutheran, Mater Dei (3-6, 1-3) will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1986 and have a losing record for the first time since 1981. The Monarchs finish next week against a rejuvenated JSerra, which upset No. 22 Orange Lutheran, 31-14, on Thursday night.

Despite the heroics of Pittman, who threw an eight-yard TD pass to Ainslie Johnson to complete the first scoring drive and scored on a one-yard run to tie the score at 21-21 with 3:48 left in the third quarter, it was defense and special teams that may have had the game's decisive moment.

On third and seven, Butch Pauu sacked Ryan McMahon for a 10-yard loss at the 14 -- one of five for the Friars' defense -- and then Daniel Tejeda blocked Nick O'Toole's punt; the ball went skyward and Pauu caught it in the back of the end zone for a TD and a 28-21 lead with 1:04 left in the third quarter.

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No. 1 Servite 35, No. 16 St. John Bosco 27

October, 29, 2011

BELLFLOWER -- Servite coach Troy Thomas and quarterback Cody Pittman both knew it: There was no way the Friars could out-athlete St. John Bosco. It takes a lot for competitors to admit that others are faster and quicker but neither Thomas or Pittman shied away from doing so Friday night.

Instead, they ran right at the supposed mismatch. Time after time after time.

Servite, No. 1 in the ESPN Los Angeles prep football top 25, used its strong running attack to earn a hard-fought victory against St. John Bosco, 35-27, at Braves Stadium. The win gave the Friars sole possession of first place in the Trinity League.

"We figured the only way we could get it done was to try to beat them up front, which isn't easy to do either obviously," Thomas said. "But we felt like that was the only way we could get it done."

Manaitavini Pauu had 128 yards of total offense and two touchdowns, Andrew Moore added 108 and two scores, and Pittman pitched in with 162 total yards for Servite (7-1, 3-0), which erased an early second half deficit. The Friars trailed twice -- 21-14 and 27-21 -- in the third quarter but the physicality of Pauu and Moore brought them back.

"We thought the line up front was going to be big this week and they were," Pittman said. "They were pushing guys off the ball and creating running lanes."

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L.A. South: Five games to see live

October, 26, 2011
Here are this week's top five games in south Los Angeles County:

No. 1 Servite at No. 16 St. John Bosco, Friday, 7:30 p.m. -- A year older, wiser and better, the St. John Bosco Braves (6-1, 2-0 Trinity) hope they can pull off the shocker this time around. They held a brief lead against Servite (6-1, 2-0) last season before the Friars' experience -- and the Braves' inexperience -- took over. Junior tailback DaVonte Young's spectacular performance against Mater Dei last week was proof that Bosco has another wrinkle to its prolific spread offense. And the Braves were great on defense too, limiting the Monarchs to only a field goal. A Cody Pittman-led Servite attack is an entirely different test, though.

No. 15 Loyola at No. 14 Bishop Amat, Friday, 7 p.m. -- Apparently, the return of hybrid receiver/tailback Zachary Shay (concussion) was exactly what Bishop Amat (6-2, 1-1 Serra) needed to rejoin the league race. After missing the previous five games, the senior had eight catches for 83 yards and a touchdown run in the Lancers' rather surprising 28-14 win at Crespi. If Shay can stay healthy, and if the defense holds up the way it did against the potent Celts, Amat can be a scary team. The Loyola Cubs (6-1, 1-0), meanwhile, haven't won a league road game since 2008, which also marks the last time they beat Amat. The game will be televised by Time Warner Cable on Channel 101 at midnight.

Kevin McMahon
Blair Angulo/For ESPNLA.comThe play of Carson quarterback Kevin McMahon will be key against 7-0 San Pedro.
No. 22 San Pedro at Carson, Friday, 7 p.m. -- Undefeated San Pedro (7-0, 2-0 Marine) finally gets to show that its record is no fluke. The Pirates have won their games by an average of 26 points behind senior quarterback Kenny Potter's 25 total touchdowns, but the combined record of their seven opponents is a woeful 16-33. That obviously hasn't earned them much respect. Carson (3-4, 1-1) comes in on the other side of the spectrum, having played a mini Pac-5 Division series against the likes of Mater Dei, Long Beach Poly, Santa Margarita and Mission Viejo. The Colts are motivated following last week's last-minute loss to rival Narbonne. Quarterback Kevin McMahon has to find a way to get the ball to top playmaker Darreus Rogers more consistently.

Gardena Serra at St. Paul, Friday, 7 p.m. -- Yeah, the Serra Cavaliers (5-2, 2-0 Mission) are young and depleted, but they're still dangerous and a legitimate league contender. Just ask previously unbeaten St. Francis, which fell victim to the young Cavs and standout junior running back Anterio Bateman. St. Paul's only loss came to Chaminade, the league favorite and top-ranked team in the Western Division. "I know this league is awesome from top to bottom," Serra coach Scott Altenberg told the Daily Breeze following last week's victory against St. Francis. "We know how tough it's going to be week to week, and now we know how tough it's going to be half to half."

Gahr at Dominguez, Friday, 7 p.m. -- These teams are heading in opposite directions. Gahr (5-2, 0-2 San Gabriel Valley) has dropped two straight after winning its first five; Dominguez (5-2, 2-0) lost its first two in lopsided fashion -- albeit to Crespi and Redlands East Valley -- but has since won five in a row.

ESPNLA prep football Top 25: Week 8

October, 23, 2011
LA PrepESPN.com Illustration

Orange Lutheran took another hard fall in our weekly top 25 rankings after its loss to Santa Margarita, further complicating its bid for a Pac-5 Division playoff spot. Upland gained control of the Baseline League with its clutch victory over Rancho Cucamonga, and Bishop Amat rejoined the Serra League race by beating Crespi on the road. The rankings heading into Week 8:

1. Servite (6-1)
No issues against the league bottom-dwellers as the Friars earned their 16th consecutive Trinity League victory. Senior quarterback Cody Pittman was effective on the ground and through the air. Last week: Beat JSerra, 42-14. Next: at St. John Bosco, Friday.

2. Westlake (7-0)
A slow start Friday was just a minor glitch for Warriors quarterback Justin Moore, who passed for 225 yards and three touchdowns. Junior Dashon Hunt added 118 yards rushing in 14 carries. Last week: Beat Moorpark, 34-13. Next: vs. Newbury Park, Friday.

3. St. Bonaventure (6-1)
It's becoming a weekly thing for the powerful tandem of Shaun Wick and Zack Green, who combined to score six of the team's eight touchdowns Friday. The Seraphs gave up only 12 yards rushing. Last week: Beat Agoura, 56-0. Next: vs. Thousand Oaks, Friday.

4. Corona Centennial (6-1)
The defense bent but didn't break, forcing four turnovers despite surrendering 438 yards of total offense Friday. The high-powered Huskies capitalized behind Hayden Gavett's 248 total yards and four scores. Last week: Beat Norco, 45-18. Next: at Corona, Friday.

5. Long Beach Poly (6-1)
A bye week might have come at the wrong time for a Jackrabbits offense that seemed to be finding its groove recently. Players, meanwhile, probably weren't complaining about the extra rest heading into the final Moore League games. Last week: Idle. Next: at Millikan, Friday.

6. Santa Margarita (6-1)
A solid bounce-back win Friday for the Eagles, who were coming off an upset loss in the Trinity League opener. Johnny Stanton had 235 total yards and scored twice in the final five minutes. Last week: Beat Orange Lutheran, 31-10. Next: vs. JSerra at Saddleback College, Friday.

7. Redlands East Valley (7-0)
The Wildcats needed overtime to survive their crosstown rivals' upset bid Friday. They raised the Smudge Pot trophy after quarterback Austin Decoud scored the game-winner on a 16-yard run. Last week: Beat Redlands, 21-14. Next: at Eisenhower, Friday.

8. Mission Viejo (5-2)
You can argue that the schedule worked out well for the battle-tested Diablos. They are well rested heading into Friday's crucial matchup, which will likely decide the South Coast League champion. Last week: Idle. Next: vs. San Clemente, Friday.

9. San Clemente (8-0)
The Tritons erased an early deficit against rival Dana Hills on Friday, relying on running back Mike Elespuru and Utah-bound quarterback Travis Wilson. Elespuru rushed for 146 yards and Wilson passed for 205. Last week: Beat Dana Hills, 35-10. Next: at Mission Viejo, Friday.

10. Vista Murrieta (7-0)
The dominant defense forced nine punts Friday, holding Temecula Valley to just 64 total yards. On the other side, Aaron Piecukonis was effective running the ball. Last week: Beat Temecula Valley, 41-3. Next: at Great Oak, Friday.

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Manaitovini PauuAlex Gallardo for ESPNLA.comMana Pauu picks up some of his hard-earned 77 rushing yards in Servite's victory Friday.

NORWALK -- Six games into the season, Troy Thomas finally had a reason to smile. After five games of failing to play "Servite football," the Friars did just that Friday in their Trinity League opener against Orange Lutheran.

The result ESPNLA's top-ranked team scoring a 21-8 victory over the eighth-ranked Lancers at Cerritos College.

Servite (5-1, 1-0), which has won at least a share of six consecutive league titles, defeated Lutheran (5-1, 0-1) for the seventh consecutive season. All eyes are on the Friars, who have won the last two Pac-5 championships. This was their 30th victory in 32 games, but the first since losing two weeks ago in Las Vegas to Bishop Gorman, 31-28, on a last-minute field goal.

"This is a huge win," Thomas, the Servite coach, said. "Any win is huge in this league. OLu is a very talented team watching them on film. They do a lot of great things. To get this one is huge for us, especially after last week. We didn't feel like we played Servite football. Tonight we played Servite football."

Cody Pittman found wide-open Ainslie Johnson for 53- and 82-yard touchdowns, and a junior running back who was on the scout team two weeks ago seemed to galvanize his place in the lineup. Mana Pauu rushed 16 times for 77 yards against a tough Lutheran defense, including a four-yard score with three seconds left in the first half that gave Servite a 7-2 lead.

But the star of the night was the Servite defense led by Butch Pauu, who had an interception as well as several commanding tackles. The Friars were more physical than they had been all season. They shut out the Lutheran offense until the final minute, when the Lancers drove 98 yards and scored on a 14-yard pass from Conner Sullivan to Brady Roelofs with 25 seconds remaining.

"That's the way we can play defense," Thomas said afterward. "Finally. Finally!"

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Football: Bishop Gorman (Nev.) 31, No. 1 Servite 28

October, 1, 2011
LAS VEGAS -- Considering the Servite football team has won the last two CIF-Southern Section Pac-5 Division championships and entered the game at No. 1 in the state and No. 13 in the POWERADE FAB 50, it’s easy to say that Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) coming up with a 31-28 win Friday ranks as probably the biggest win ever by a Nevada high school football team over one from California.

It's true the Gaels (6-1) were No. 10 in the FAB 50 and for the last three years have played at a level equal to many top teams nationally, but they'd yet to beat a top California foe. In fact, beginning with the first game between the two states -- believed to be a 70-0 win in 1896 by Belmont Academy (Belmont, Calif.) over the University of Nevada -- there's never been a California team as highly regarded as Servite that has lost to a Nevada opponent.

Junior Klein Fielden snuck through a 39-yard field goal with 1:03 left to give Bishop Gorman a 31-28 lead. Servite (4-1) tried to respond, but a dropped lateral cost the Friars 10 yards on their second play and they couldn’t recover. A desperation fourth-down pass by quarterback Cody Pittman was intercepted with 18 seconds left by the Gaels' Nathan Starks to seal the triumph.

“Being from California myself I know what type of football is played by a team like Servite so for us just to be close speaks volumes about the way we play,” said Bishop Gorman coach Tony Sanchez. “At the end of the day, this was a game that could have gone either way.”

Servite tied the score 28-28 on the first play of the fourth quarter on a 12-yard run by junior Manaitavini Pauu, who had no carries in the first half but surged to a team-best 83 yards in 12 carries in the second half. The Friars also had a promising drive later in the quarter that began on their own 2-yard line, but stalled at midfield. Bishop Gorman then went on its drive to Fielden’s field goal on its ensuing series.

“We’ll learn a lot from this game,” said Servite coach Troy Thomas. “We made some mistakes and I’m just glad it was in the preseason.

“We hadn’t been in a game like this yet and I was glad to see how much we battled back. They just made some big plays and we knew they were a big play team.”

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ESPNLA prep football Top 25: Week 3

September, 19, 2011
Alemany and Mater Dei were the only ranked teams to lose last week, so there aren't any newcomers to the latest ESPN Los Angeles prep football 25. There are six matchups between ranked teams this week, making for an intriguing slate of games as nonleague action winds down across the Southland. Here are our rankings heading into Week 3:

1. Servite (3-0)
Cody Pittman had 230 passing yards -- 147 going to favorite target Sam Hunt. But not all went well for the Friars, who will be without running back Charlie Etiaki (collarbone) for over a month. Last week: Beat La Habra, 24-16. Next: vs. Edison at Huntington Beach HS, Fri., 7 p.m.

2. Long Beach Poly (3-0)
The crowd's exhale at Veterans Stadium was clearly audible after the Jackrabbits survived a late charge by a City Section favorite Friday night. Coach Raul Lara had his defense to thank. Last week: Beat Narbonne, 19-16. Next: at Mission Viejo, Fri., 7:30 p.m.

3. Santa Margarita (3-0)
Ryan Wolpin carried 20 times for 133 yards and scored four touchdowns, and the Eagles picked off four passes to beat a neighboring school for the second straight week. Last week: Beat Trabuco Hills, 35-14. Next: at Carson, Fri., 7 p.m.

4. Mission Viejo (2-1)
The Diablos were obviously glad to be back in town following their humbling trip to New Jersey. Alex Bridgford, Jahleel Pinner and D.J. Wilson got the explosive offense back on track. Last week: Beat La Quinta, 47-21. Next: vs. Long Beach Poly, Fri., 7:30 p.m.

5. St. Bonaventure (2-0)
Give the Seraphs credit for not lollygagging through their Marmonte League opener. They could have easily overlooked Royal, instead setting their sights on this week's highly anticipated game. Last week: Beat Royal, 59-0. Next: at Oaks Christian, Fri., 7 p.m.

6. Corona Centennial (1-1)
There's no questioning the Huskies' heart, that's for sure. Hayden Gavett led a late charge to erase two-touchdown deficit, helping Centennial avoid what would have been a demoralizing 0-2 start. Last week: Beat Mater Dei, 28-20. Next: vs. Chaparral, Fri., 7 p.m.

7. Crespi (3-0)
Serra League coaches might have been jumping for joy after the graduation of Kenny Stenhouse, but Cody Cordell might cause some headaches this fall. The junior threw for five touchdowns in Fresno. Last week: Beat Clovis West, 42-28. Next: at Palisades, Fri., 7 p.m.

8. Oaks Christian (1-1)
Sophomore Brandon Dawkins threw the ball only six times in his varsity debut but half went for scores. Ishmael Adams added 121 rushing yards to help the Lions bounce back from their season-opening loss. Last week: Beat Agoura, 50-11. Next: vs. St. Bonaventure, Fri., 7 p.m.

9. St. John Bosco (3-0)
As expected, the Braves are spreading the ball around on offense, averaging nearly 38 points through three games. Cal-bound Bryce Treggs either beats defenses by himself or serves as a decoy. Last week: Beat Santa Fe, 51-0. Next: vs. Loyola at L.A. Valley College, Fri., 7 p.m.

10. Alemany (2-1)
In the biggest shocker so far, the Warriors blew a 14-point lead on the road Friday and lost, snapping their 15-game regular-season winning streak. The schedule doesn't get easier, either. Last week: Lost to J.W. North, 36-35. Next: at Chaminade, Fri., 7:30 p.m.

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Football: No. 1 Servite 49, No. 7 Bishop Amat 14

September, 9, 2011

NORWALK -- Cody Pittman says he's hungry but, judging by how he looked Friday night, the senior quarterback might be selling himself a bit short.

Starving seems more appropriate.

Pittman threw for 139 yards, ran for 75 more and had three total touchdowns, leading top-ranked Servite to a 49-14 drubbing of Bishop Amat at Cerritos College. The Friars did what the Friars do, feasting on a helpless opponent by controlling the trenches.

"When we come out and play our game," Pittman said, "this should be the outcome against most of these teams we've got coming up. ... I want to get back to that point that we were at last year. I want to prove to everyone that last year [against De La Salle] was an upset, that we can bounce back from it."

The Lancers, a trendy Pac-5 Division sleeper pick and the No. 7 team in ESPNLA.com's Top 25 football rankings, were supposed to give Servite a tough test. It never truly materialized, with the Friars (2-0) pulling away to a 28-7 halftime lead. A noticeable amount of Bishop Amat fans filed out of the stadium at the start of the fourth quarter when things appeared meager, but what else did they expect?

"Well, I don't know exactly what went wrong," Lancers coach Steve Hagerty said. "I'll have to look at [the tape] and see. I think they're physically better than us up front, bigger and stronger. Our kids are fighting the good fight but sometimes it's not the best thing."

There wasn't much doing on either side of the ball for Amat (1-1). Senior quarterback Rio Ruiz was just 8 of 17 passing for 73 yards, throwing for a touchdown but, also, two interceptions. One of his picks set Servite up nicely near the goal line, the other came inside the red zone when the game was still within reach.

Amat's only score of the first half was a beauty, with Ruiz hitting Adam Sanchez for a 31-yard touchdown on a crucial fourth and 12. Ruiz beat triple coverage, hitting a diving, sprawling Sanchez in the back of the end zone. The touchdown made it 14-7.

It was all Servite from there.

Friars tailback Charlie Etiaki eased his way through monstrous holes, running for 114 yards on just nine carries. He had two touchdowns, one through the air and another through the ground. Andrew Moore also approached the century mark and had a score.

"The running attack starts with our offensive line and they were getting a push," Pittman said. "When you have that and you have the running backs that we have, it's going to be unstoppable."

Seventh-year coach Troy Thomas was all smiles after the game, complimenting his defense for the job it did against Ruiz and tailback Jalen Moore (20 carries, 73 yards). And, perhaps most notably, the Friars proved they're capable of returning to the Home Depot Center come December, maybe for a rematch against Northern California powerhouse De La Salle.

"We don't really gear ourselves to winning a championship or anything like that," Thomas said. "We're just trying to be champions in our lives. We believe champions win championships. When you do that, then you have a chance in the end."

And, if Pittman has anything to say about it, a little hunger won't hurt either.

Football: No. 1 Servite

August, 31, 2011
Butch PauuCourtesy of Laurence MartinezServite has had standout players on defense, and this season Butch Pauu figures to step to the forefront.

Can Servite win three consecutive Southern Section Pac-5 titles? History indicates that it's not likely, but since Troy Thomas took over a program that had won only three league games in four seasons, the Friars have won a share of six straight league titles, reached at least the semifinals four times, won a State Bowl Championship, and won the state's toughest division in back-to-back years.

The Friars should again be tough on defense even though only four starters return. The last two years Servite had a leader with a bruising physical presence — Jake Slemmer in 2009, and Matt Inman in 2010. Who will rise into that role this season? The obvious choice is Brigham Young-bound linebacker Butch Pauu, who's in his third season as a starter.

Last season's embarrassing 48-8 loss to Concord De La Salle in the Open Bowl Championship series ended a 25-game winning streak and forced the Friars to refocus even though they have won 28 of their last 30 games.

"We've made a step up on both sides of the ball — we had to," said Thomas, who is 96-29 in nine years as a head coach, 62-16 at Servite. "We learned that what we were doing wasn’t good enough. Technically, we were not doing a good enough job to play with a De La Salle up front, and that’s on me. We’ve been studying hard and working diligently as a coaching staff. I’m really happy with our offensive line coach (Jim O'Connell) and defensive line coach (A.J. Gass). They’re doing some amazing things with our guys. Technically, we’ve really improved."

They've improved? That can't be good news for opponents.

Here is a closer look at the Friars:

Team: Servite

Coach: Troy Thomas, seventh season

2010 record: 14-1, beat Mission Viejo for Southern Section Pac-5 championship; lost to Concord De La Salle in Open Bowl Championship Series.

Returning starters: 12 total. Eight on offense, four on defense.

Key players on offense:: RB Sean DeRosa, OL Travis Averill (Boise State), WR Sam Hunt, QB Cody Pittman, TE Ainslie Johnson, OL Michael Meyer, OL Miles Williams.

Key players on defense: LB Butch Pauu (BYU), DE Jherremya Leuta-Douyere (BYU), DE Conner Einck, FS Domain Mora.

Difference maker: Pittman was just trying to win the job at QB last season and was considered the weak link, yet he was remarkably efficient; he completed 65 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns and four interceptions. A running threat and improved passer, he comes into this season with more confidence. Thomas says that "he's as good as we've had," at the position, and considering Cody Fajardo was the QB two years ago, that's saying something.

Newcomers: TB/MLB Andrew Moore, a sophomore who will find his way onto the field.

Not to be missed: Santa Margarita vs. Servite at Cerritos College, Nov 11. If the season plays out the way it's projected, the Trinity League title will be decided in Week 10 by the two best teams. The first round of the playoffs will be a step down, for sure.

Coach's comment: " I don’t know how good we’re going to be, we’re just going against each other," Thomas said. "But I’ll tell you this: I really like my team. I like how they practice."

Final analysis: Servite's trademark under Thomas has been its physical play and its defense. By the time Trinity League play rolls around, the defense should be solid. Servite has only one interest, and that's punching its ticket into the Pac-5 playoffs. Even if it has a handful of losses — owing to the difficult schedule that could be the case — the Friars won't be on anyone's wish list come the postseason. Until someone beats them in the playoffs, they're still the team to beat.

Orange County: Athletes of the week

December, 14, 2010
Alyssa Giannetti, Esperanza, Jr.
You don't win soccer matches without playing a little defense, and Giannetti plays plentyfor the Aztecs. They extended their unbeaten streak to 46 matches and won the Aliso Cup by beating Dana Hills on penalty kicks, 3-2, after the match ended in regulation at 1-1. Esperanza improved to 4-0-2 after Giannetti blocked a penalty kick by Rachel Edelstein. Esperanza also scored a 1-0 victory over Los Alamitos in the semifinals.

Cody Pittman, Servite, Jr.
Other athletes had flashier weeks and scored more touchdowns, but none might have been vindicated the way that Pittman was. The big question mark at the beginning of the season, and tasked with filling the shoes of one of the state's outstanding players in Cody Fajardo, Pittman guided his team to a second consecutive Pac-5 title. Tailback Malik Felton scored four TDs, but Pittman was crucial early on when the game was won: He finished an efficient nine of 15 for 213 yards and two touchdowns, and he also carried 13 times for 77 yards to help second-seeded Servite score a 41-27 victory over previously undefeated and top-seeded Mission Viejo.

Pac-5 championship: Servite 41, Mission Viejo 27

December, 12, 2010
ANAHEIM – They had been on a collision course all season. Both teams had lived up to the hype as they went through the playoffs. And when they met at Angel Stadium on Saturday to determine the undefeated Pac-5 champion, an unstoppable offense and a bruising defense both showed up.

For the same team.

Second-seeded Servite scored four times in the first half and rode the arm and legs of Cody Pittman, the continued excellence of Malik Felton, and the trademark defense to a decisive 41-27 victory in front of 15,582 fans over the one team that figured to have a chance to beat them. It's the second consecutive championship for Servite (14-0), which also won the Division II State Bowl championship last season.

Instead, top-seeded Mission Viejo (13-1) found the defense of Servite (14-0) just as physical as advertised. The Diablo offense dropped balls – perhaps knowing the jarring hit that would come with every completion – and threw interceptions and didn't look anything like the team that averaged 45.1 points this season.

“They rattled some of us,” said Mission Viejo quarterback Alex Bridgford, a junior who fumbled at the one-yard line on Mission Viejo's final play with 52 seconds to go. “We had to come back at the end but it was too late.”

This game had seemingly been in the making since last season when Mission Viejo was turned away on a two-point conversion attempt in the final minute of a 19-18 loss to Servite in the semifinals.

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Pac-5 Division: Servite 28, Alemany 21

December, 4, 2010

Alex Gallardo/Special to ESPNLA.com
Servite's Malik Felton rushes for some of his 155 yards on the ground to lead the Friars to victory.

CERRITOS – Classic Servite.

Special teams, defense, and Malik Felton.

The Friars, seeded second in the Southern Section Pac-5 Division playoffs, lived up to their reputation Saturday when they relied on their sure things to beat previously unbeaten Alemany, 28-21, to advance to their second consecutive championship.

Servite (13-0) will play top-seeded Mission Viejo (13-0) on Saturday at Angel Stadium in a game that features two of the Southland's heavy hitters, a collision course that seems to have been destined since Day 1. They met last year in the Pac-5 semifinals and Servite won, 19-18, when it turned back a two-point conversion attempt in the last minute. The Friars went on to win the section title, then the State Division II Bowl championship.

Their winning streak now stands at 24 games, but it wasn't without some anxious moments against Alemany (12-1).

Vernon Adams showed just how dangerous he could be. He completed 19 of 34 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns, and ran 22 times for 140 yards. “Tiring,” is how Troy Niklas described trying to track down the elusive senior.

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