By Fred J. Robledo Staff Writer
The drive for five sped into history without a glitch, proving once again that defense wins championships.
The smothering and physical dominance that the Charter Oak High School football team showed during four straight shutouts during the Miramonte League showed up again in the CIF-Southern Section Southeast Division championship game against league foe Diamond Ranch on Friday at Ayala High School.
Brandon Golden had two interceptions, and Dennis Rufus had another, and with running back Adam Muema providing the finishing touches with 177 yards and two touchdowns, Charter Oak won its first back-to-back championship in school history with a 21-0 victory over the Panthers.
“We started the season with a motto to make sure you keep your swag caps on,” said Golden, who also scored on a 41-yard touchdown run with 2:15 left to provide the exclamation point. “We started a little shaky in the first half, but our swag caps were tight in the second half. It’s history man, our coaches talked about it all year, making history at Charter Oak and we did it.”
For Chargers coach Lou Farrar, it was his fifth championship, making him second all-time in Valley history behind Los Altos’ Dwayne Despain.
The Chargers finished 13-1 and were 26-1-1 over two years as the Panthers finished 7-7 after winning six straight to reach the final. But it was the Panthers’ second straight defeat to the Chargers in the championship.
“Look, it’s been a decade of dominance with Charter Oak and they punctuated it tonight,” Panthers coach Roddy Layton said. “The way their coaching staff gets their players prepared for championships is a testament to Big Lou. I’m proud to say I coached against him, he’s moved on to legendary status.”
The Chargers’ defense hounded Panthers quarterback Gus Viramontes, sacking him five times as he finished just 6-of-14 for 94 yards and three interceptions. Running back Amari Staten finished with just 41 yards.
“Their defense played well, we couldn’t get anything going offensively,” Layton said. “If you put your defense on the field long enough a good team like that is going to score.”
Farrar soaked it all in during the moments that followed.
“Five and I’m alive,” Farrar said. “The kids were unbelievable. The coaching staff was unbelievable, that was a heck of a team over there and to get our fifth shutout against another Miramonte League team, I don’t know what to say. Give a lot of credit to Roger (Lehigh, defensive coordinator) and the kids, they really wanted to finish this strong and they did.”
The Chargers fumbled on their first possession at their own 32, but the Panthers couldn’t take advantage, missing on Jeff Stamps’ 56-yard field goal attempt with 7:44 left in the first quarter.
The lone points of the first half came on the Chargers’ 13-play, 60-yard drive that included two pass interference penalties, the second giving the Chargers a first down at the Panthers’ 12.
After Leon Youngblood’s 2-yard run and Golden’s 9-yard run to the one, Muema finished it, scoring from a yard out to give the Chargers a 7-0 lead as the first quarter expired.
It was more of the same in the second half.
After the fifth sack on Viramontes, the Chargers got going offensively behind Muema, who followed a 38-yard run with a pair of 11-yard runs to the Panthers’ 2-yard line. A couple plays later, Muema finished it, scoring on a one-yard touchdown, his second of the night, giving the Chargers a 14-0 lead with 11:11 left.
“It feels good to be part of history,” Muema said. “My line did an amazing job, it’s the best feeling ever. To be the first Charter Oak team to ever go back-to-back … I can’t think of a better way to finish my career.”
Muema simply wore the Panthers down in the second half.
“The kid is a horse, he’s a beast,” Farrar said. “He’s going to make somebody very happy next year playing on Saturday’s. I’m going to miss him, he’s the best back we ever had.”
Corner A.J. Powell made big play after big play, and thought about Monday’s banquet as he walked off the field.
“(UCLA coach Rick) Neuheisel said you’re going to remember this for the rest of your life, I know what he means now,” Powell said. “This is indescribable. I don’t have words for it.”
Charter Oak 7 0 0 14 — 21
Diamond Ranch 0 0 0 0 — 0
CO: Adam Muema 1 run (Robert Poage kick), 0:00
CO: Muema 1 run (Poage kick), 11:11
CO: Brandon Golden 40 run (Poage kick), 2:17