Inland: Upland 51, Charter Oak 13


UPLAND -- With his team uniting for the postgame huddle near midfield, Kenny Lawler looked up over his left shoulder, and uttered a rhetorical question.

"You guys see a 40 up on the scoreboard?" Lawler asked.

The answer: Yes, because Upland, No. 8 in the ESPN Los Angeles prep football rankings, blew past No. 17-ranked Charter Oak, 51-13, Friday night to advance to the Inland Division semifinals. The other answer: No, because Charter Oak -- which like Upland was averaging exactly 44 points heading into the game -- didn't hold up its end of the deal. The No. 3-seeded Highlanders will face No. 2-seeded Vista Murrieta, which handled Riverside J.W. North, 58-14.

"Charter Oak was putting points up on everybody," Upland coach Tim Salter said. "That got us excited."

Upland (12-0) got balanced production on offense, led by Lawler's 195 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Tailback Donta Abron Jr. rushed for 191 yards and four touchdowns in 32 carries and quarterback Nate Romine passed for 291 yards in only 15 attempts.

"We have a lot of talent across the board," Abron Jr. said. "Other teams don't know what we're going to throw at them."

The explosiveness was supposed to go both ways but, instead, a running clock was used at the start of the fourth quarter. Really, it was an unexpected one-sided affair. The Upland defense came up with a safety midway through the third quarter and, on the very next play from scrimmage, Romine threw it up to Lawler for a 48-yard touchdown and comfortable 30-6 lead.

Knockout punch delivered.

"They had a better football team than us," Charter Oak coach Lou Farrar said.

An interception by safety Jonathan Thropay just before halftime gave Sierra League champion Charter Oak (10-2), trailing by only eight at the time, the ball at the Upland 47. It appeared as if the Chargers would have a chance to cut into the deficit but Delvin Batiste returned the favor with an interception of Travis Santiago, paving the way for Romine's 43-yard touchdown to a leaping Lawler. The Highlanders led 21-6 at the break.

It wasn’t as if the Chargers weren’t moving the ball, either. Santiago passed for 292 yards and sophomore tailback Kurt Scoby rushed for 119, but they stalled inside the red zone more than once. Charter Oak settled for a pair of Jack Schneider field goals -- from 35 and 24 yards out -- for all of its first-half points.

The Chargers, who had no trouble in a 63-21 rout of Corona Santiago in the first round, simply ran into a wall. Their only regular-season loss was by eight points and came at the hands of Rancho Cucamonga, the Baseline League runner-up to Upland.

An Upland attack that scored on each of its first eight possessions the previous week picked up right where it left off. A blocked punt by the Arizona State-bound Lawler deep in Charter Oak territory set up Abron’s first score, a one-yard plunge to the right. Abron stormed into the end zone untouched for his second score, a 21-yarder that capped a six-play, 80-yard drive.

Abron’s third score came late in the third quarter, with the game already decided. He sped right, turned the corner and, again, went in untouched.

His run was symbolic of the entire night.

"This builds momentum," Romine said.

Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPN Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter.