MISSION VIEJO -- Another game, another workmanlike performance by Servite, the No. 1 team in the ESPNLA top 25.
Defense and special teams played a significant role in Servite's Trinity League opener, a 41-7 victory over previously undefeated JSerra.
Servite improved to 6-0, 1-0; JSerra is 5-1, 0-1.
Servite's first team defense shut down JSerra's offense and allowed only 81 yards before it went to the sidelines for the fourth quarter, having not only knocked the air out of the Lions' 42.6 scoring average, but also knocking starting QB Jake Hall out of the game with a possible concussion. The lone touchdown it allowed came after Servite fumbled the opening kickoff at the 22.
Joey Kimpler's touchdown gave JSerra a 7-0 lead. It was the first time this season that Servite has trailed in a game.
“When adversity strikes us,” said Troy Niklas, a two-way starter on the line, “we hit it back in the face.”
They do, and they hit hard. Servite is one of the most physical teams in the Southern Section and wore down the Lions as the game progressed.
Special teams also contributed in a big way, blocking two punts that led to touchdowns.
The first one was crucial because JSerra was game -- and in the game. The Lions were content to go into halftime down by a touchdown when Coleby Clemmer blocked a punt out of bounds at the 8-yard line. Sean DeRosa -- who carried 15 times for 102 yards and two touchdowns -- ran in for a touchdown to make it 20-7 with 1:18 left in the first half.
There was still a half to play, but the game was over. JSerra would have had to score two touchdowns against a Friar defense led by Niklas and linebacker Matt Inman that allowed only 38 yards in the first half, and a first-team defense that had allowed only three touchdowns all season -- and two of those were on drives of 22 yards or less.
The second blocked punt, by Alex Joson, was picked up by Karlton Dennis and taken in for a 16-yard score and a 34-7 lead.
As bad as the final score was, JSerra impressed Servite coach Troy Thomas.
“I really do think [JSerra coach Jim Hartigan] gets the most out of his guys,” Thomas said. “They're playing hard and well.”
The same could be said of the Friars. Even though it won big, Servite's philosophy does not revolve around winning big. It's content to win by one point. The Friars, who have won a share of five straight league titles, have won 20 of their last 21 games.
Servite has allowed fewer than seven points per game. The Friars also got touchdowns from Robert Abeyta on a 29-yard pass from Cody Pittman, Inman on a one-yard run, and from Malik Felton on a 49-yard carry.
Pittman completed eight of 13 passes for 104 yards, and rushed four times for 26.