La Serna, Norwalk put on a show for the ages

It was, quite simply, one of the best sporting events I’ve ever covered.
Saturday’s CIF-SS Southeast Division football final between La Serna and Norwalk at Cal State Fullerton had it all – big plays on both sides, lead changes, fourth-down heroics and one of the most dramatic finishes in recent memory.
La Serna put to rest two years of Southeast finals frustration with Saturday’s 41-38 double overtime victory, knocking off top-seeded and previously unbeaten Norwalk when senior quarterback Frankie Palmer connected with Matthew Rosales for a 19-yard TD pass on fourth down-and-5. That capped an OT session that featured two missed PATs and what appeared to be a sure TD pass to Norwalk star Rashaad Penny that was broken up at the last second by La Serna’s Tony Ceron.
La Serna had lost the last two Southeast finals, 84-21 to West Covina in 2011 and 33-25 to Downey last year. The title is La Serna’s first since 1967 and the school’s second ever in football.
“I forgot all about the last two (losses),” La Serna coach Margarito Beltran said amid the postgame celebration.
Palmer completed 10 of 23 passes for 146 yards and the TD to Rosales. He also had TD runs of 1, 4 and 2 yards, and scored a crucial 2-point conversion late in the fourth quarter to tie the game. Beltran considered attempting a 38-yard field goal to tie the game on fourth down in the second OT, but decided to let his three-year starter make a play instead.
“(Palmer) said, ‘If you put the ball in my hands, I’ll get it done,’” Beltran said, “and that’s exactly what he did.”
Each team scored a TD in the first OT period, but both missed the resulting PAT. In the second session, Norwalk had possession first, and a Jacob Carr-to-Dillon Faamatau completion put the ball inside the 10. But La Serna’s defense stiffened, including Ceron’s touchdown-saving pass breakup, and Norwalk settled for a 21-yard field goal from Perez for a 38-35 lead.
Needing a TD to win, La Serna gained just six yards on its first three plays, and Beltran called timeout.
He briefly considered sending in Alex Vasquez for a 38-yard field goal attempt to tie the game, but wisely left Palmer in charge with the game’s outcome in the balance.
Out of the shotgun, Palmer first looked to his left, but pressure from Norwalk’s line forced him to roll right. That’s when he saw Rosales open near the 5 and got him the ball for the winning score.
“Frankie scrambled out, and I just tried to keep the route alive,” Rosales said.
The game’s two biggest plays came against Norwalk’s special teams. The first was a punt snap that sailed over Penny’s head, giving La Serna great field position late in the second quarter. On the first play from scrimmage, Kevin Ramos scored on an 8-yard run for a 21-14 halftime lead.
The second also involved Ramos, and came on a play that could have iced the game for Norwalk. With less than 3 minutes to play, Norwalk held a 29-21 lead and faced fourth down at the La Serna 3. But instead of going for it on fourth down, as he had successfully four times previously in the game, Norwalk coach Jesse Ceniceros sent place kicker Jorge Perez on the field. A successful kick would have given Norwalk a nearly insurmountable 11-point lead late in the fourth quarter.
The kick, however, was anything but successful. Ceron busted through the line to block the kick, and Ramos scooped up the ball at the 25. With nothing but teammates in front of him, Ramos raced 75 yards to put La Serna right back in the game. And when Palmer dove across the goal line to score a 2-point conversion, La Serna had somehow tied the game.
“It was all a team effort,” Ramos said of La Serna’s late-game rally. “We just said, ‘We’ve gotta bear down and do it and believe in the team.’”
Defensively, La Serna did an outstanding job against Penny, although he made several unbelievable plays throughout the game. Penny finished with 121 rushing yards, but over half of that came on a 61-yard fourth-quarter touchdown. He was held to six yards or less on 20 of his 23 carries.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound bruiser made a pair of remarkable TD catches and also blocked Vasquez’s potential game-winning PAT in the first overtime.



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  • Joey P

    Best game in a long time. hats off to Norwalk and Penny is a beast. LS was could have lost this game but pulled it out. Great win!!

  • 562Omar

    Wow! What a great game. Every play seemed like a huge momentum swing for each team. Yeah, I even lost my voice from all the cheering and ended up with a scraped shin while celebrating this most improbable final play!
    Congratulations La Serna Football – 2013 CIF CHAMPIONS

  • Outside Looking In

    That was a good game. Great effort by both squads. Way to end the season. Now that pee wee football is over, let the best football of the season begin! Can’t wait for the State Bowl pairings to come out today!

  • Guest watching

    This was surely a great game all the way around! But the La Serna coaches could of and should of blown the game. With 6 minutes left in the game and La Serna with the ball at there own 30 yard line and it being 4th and 8 or 9 and not electing to punt to pin Norwalk deep in their territory and rely on your defense that was shutting down Penny all game was straight idiotic! That’s not smart football and now I know why they always lost the big one! We all know it didn’t rely on talent, because they surely had that and had even more last year! But now they gave the ball back to Norwalk with 30 yards to go with under 6 mins left to play and if Norwalk’s QB didn’t fumble the snap on 3rd and Goal from the 2 yard line, Penny would have walked in and they would have went up by 15 and game over!! Instead they went for the field goal, which was a horrible call by Norwalk at the same time (I guess that’s why this is high school football at it’s best haha) and LS made a great play to get back in the game. But again it was the players that made that play, it wasn’t a great call or anything like that, in a normal situation that game should have been over based on coaching decisions and again LS loses in their 3rd CIF Finals trip! I just think it’s unfortunate for great kids and players to be plagued by coaches that think they know what is going on when essentially they don’t. When LS was running the spread at the beginning of the game with a no huddle that’s when Palmer is most effective in Johnny Manziel style situations, (where he can either run or throw) and at the high school level in that division he is unstoppable! And when it was working and Norwalk was confused and couldn’t stop it they go back to that crap wing and slowing down the game giving Norwalk a chance to adjust. It’s frustrating to see such a great group of talented kids being limited by coaches that don’t have a grasp or knowledge about the situations or play calling! The coaching is not good there and everyone around the league and in the area knows it. After Palmer and his crew are gone, I’m very anxious to see the outcome of this program. Again, I’m glad that these kids got a CIF Championship because hands down they are the most talented and they deserve it! But these coaches almost giving it away was going to be the saddest sight I’ve ever seen. With horrible play calling and Palmer not being there to bail them out with a great play or his feet LS is going to be just the same ole LS once again. And the OC there knows that and with no Palmer I guarantee he retires. Because without Palmer, and his lack of play calling ability and being able to recognize game situations and adjusting to defenses they are not a championship caliber team anymore. This year and last year should have been blow out wins for LS in the championship games! Atleast they got one, but great win for those kids!

    • Junior Lim

      I totally agree, last year’s team was far more talented, but ended up short. That 3rd and long from the negative 30 was a terrible call. But fate was on LS’ side. Congrats LS.

    • Anonymous

      Hey buddy shut up and keep thinking what you want too cause you got things all wrong