WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. -- On paper, Friday's CIF Southern Section Northwest Division championship game was a matchup of two 13-0 clubs featuring two of the best juniors in the state: Westlake Village Oaks Christian's Malcolm Jones and Gardena Serra's Robert Woods. On the field, however, the difference was the battle in the trenches, as the Lions were able to wear down the Cavaliers after a fairly even first quarter.
The score was tied 14-14 at the beginning of the second quarter, but to say the Lions dominated thereafter would be an understatement: Oaks Christian went on to record a 63-28 victory over the Cavaliers. From the second play of the second quarter until 1:49 was left in the game, Serra did not record a first down. In between, they had trouble tackling Oaks Christian running back Malcolm Jones, as the state sophomore of the year from 2007 scored two touchdowns late in the first half to turn the tide in favor of the state's ninth-ranked team.
"Malcolm and Nick [Montana] played great on offense," Oaks Christian head coach Bill Redell said. "Actually, Malcolm was all over the place on both sides of the ball."
The turning point came late in the second quarter as Oaks Christian was tilting the field by forcing multiple three-and-outs for Serra's offense. A 2-yard touchdown run from Jones punctuated a drive that started at the Cavs' 48-yard line with 1:45 remaining before halftime. On Serra's next offensive possession, junior defensive back Scott Arellano picked off Cavs quarterback Ted Landers (10-17, 71 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) at the Oak Christian 30-yard line after Woods had returned the kickoff 36 yards to midfield.
After the interception with 1:23 remaining in the quarter, there was some debate on the Oaks Christian sideline as to whether they should simply kneel the ball after taking three snaps and head into halftime with a 28-21 lead or run one last play. Redell and his staff decided to hand the ball off to Jones one more time, and the 6-foot, 215-pound junior responded with a 65-yard touchdown run with 18 seconds remaining on the clock.
"I was going outside on that play," Jones said. "Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a cutback lane, broke some tackles and took off."
That backbreaking run wasn't the only time Serra's defense failed to wrap up Jones. He finished with 20 carries for 206 yards with three rushing touchdowns and four receptions from Montana. The junior quarterback threw to Jones for 96 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown reception that gave Oaks Christian a 14-7 lead with 2:12 remaining in the first quarter. Montana, the son of NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana, played an efficient if not spectacular game, completing 15 of 23 passes for 243 yards without an interception and four touchdowns. He completed all seven of his pass attempts in the second half, including passes of five and two yards for touchdowns to senior wide receiver Ryan Landseadel.
"We had momentum right from the beginning," Montana said. "Going in, we didn't really know how much better we were than them. I don't think the scoreboard shows their talent level."
With the win, Oaks Christian (14-0) captured its third consecutive Northwest Division title and its sixth consecutive divisional title, a new CIF Southern Section record. The Lions have posted an incredible 101-9 record since first fielding a varsity team in 2001, not to mention a section-record 25 consecutive postseason games. Included in both totals was the inaugural CIF Division III State Championship Bowl Game victory over Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa in 2006, but it doesn't look like the program will get its chance to extend its ongoing postseason winning streak this season.
Division III front-runner St. Bonaventure of Ventura, the state's No. 4 team, defeated No. 16 Moorpark, 42-7, on Friday evening to capture the CIFSS Northern Division title. At the time the Seraphs played them, Moorpark was the third top-16 team that St. Bonaventure has faced this season and the second one they have defeated along with Crespi of Encino. The team's only setback was a 12-7 loss to state No. 1 Poly of Long Beach. Serra, which came into the game ranked No. 24 in the CalHiSports.com overall top 25 ratings, was the first ranked team Oaks Christian faced all season and it has been made clear since the onset of the CIF Bowl Games that strength of schedule is one factor that will weigh heavily with CIF Section Commissioners when choosing the eligible section champions that will appear in those games.
"There are a lot of good teams out there," Redell said. "We just appreciate being considered for the Div. III game. If St. Bonnies beats Moorpark pretty good, they should definitely be considered. I'm just happy with the win [over Serra]."
Woods, one of the most explosive players in the state regardless of class, helped keep Serra in the game for the first 12 minutes. He opened the scoring with a 7-yard touchdown reception from Landers and tied the game at 14-14 on a 1-yard swing pass with 1:12 remaining in the first quarter. He hit the corner, turned on the afterburners and made two defenders miss at the 5-yard line on his 29-yard touchdown reception.
Woods, who also had a 79-yard punt return for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, finished the game with seven receptions for 80 yards and the two touchdowns. He also rushed the ball once for 3 yards and returned two kickoffs 54 yards despite the fact that Oaks Christian was trying to keep the ball out of his hands. Woods finished the game with 216 all-purpose yards and finished his fine junior campaign with 80 receptions for 1,362 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Ronnie Flores covers high school sports for ESPN RISE.