Some prognostications were pretty close, others …

If football season had to come to an end in the Whittier area, at least it went out with a game for the ages.
Last Saturday’s CIF-SS Southeast Division final between La Serna and Norwalk was an epic battle, one finally secured by La Serna, 41-38 in double overtime. The game was tied or had a lead change 11 times – ELEVEN TIMES – and three touchdowns were scored on fourth down, including the game-winner. It was a all-time classic.
In the lead-up to the game, I made a tale-of-the-tape comparison of the teams, giving an advantage to one or the other in key areas. I also listed what I thought would be keys to victory for each, and gave my prediction for the game’s outcome.
Well, late Saturday night/Sunday morning I went back and reviewed what I’d written. One some, like the outcome and what Frankie Palmer would do with the game on the line, I was right on the money. On others, like who had the special teams advantage and Palmer’s rushing yards, not so much.
Anyway, here’s another look at my pregame thoughts, and then a postgame comment.

Offensive line
La Serna:
Quick and experienced
Norwalk: Massive and well-coached
Advantage: Norwalk
Postgame: A slight edge to La Serna, which gave Palmer ample time to throw

Running attack
La Serna:
Three good backs and a mobile QB
Norwalk: Rashaad Penny, Rashaad Penny, Rashaad Penny
Advantage: Norwalk
Postgame: I still give it to Norwalk, but not by much

Passing attack
La Serna:
Lots of weapons, from the backfield and on the perimeter
Norwalk: 27 pass attempts all season
Advantage: La Serna
Postgame: I gotta go with La Serna on this, but Norwalk threw more TD passes

La Serna:
Frankie Palmer is 33-8 as a varsity starter
Norwalk: Junior Jacob Car has completed 18 of 22 throws this season
Advantage: La Serna
Postgame: Palmer is now 34-8 as a varsity starter. ‘Nuff said

Defensive line
La Serna:
Quick and relentless
Norwalk: Very, very large
Advantage: La Serna
Postgame: La Serna held Penny to 6 yards or less on 20 of 23 carries

La Serna:
Daniel Campos and Luis Camacho are hard hitters
Norwalk: Aaron Armendarez is a three-year varsity player
Advantage: Draw
Postgame: Margarito Beltran calls Camacho “relentless.” It’s very accurate

La Serna:
The Lancers gave up two long TD passes last week
Norwalk: 8 of 15 interceptions came from the DBs
Advantage: Norwalk
Postgame: Norwalk averaged over 27 yards per pass completion and found the end zone twice

Special teams
La Serna:
Sophomore PK Alex Vasquez has been solid all year
Norwalk: Penny also punts and returns kicks
Advantage: Norwalk
Postgame: Norwalk mistakes on special teams led to La Serna’s biggest plays during regulation

La Serna:
Big-game experience on both sides of the ball
Norwalk: Best athlete on the field
Advantage: La Serna
Postgame: La Serna’s seniors willed that team to victory

La Serna 31, Norwalk 28
Postgame: Can’t believe I got as close as I did

La Serna will win if …
the offensive line gives QB Frankie Palmer time to find his receivers. Matthew Rosales, D’Andre Sanchez, Luis Camacho and Anthony Garcia have been consistent and reliable targets …
Postgame: It did, and they were

Palmer is NOT the La Serna’s leading rusher. Garcia has been outstanding since his JV call-up, and a big game from him or Bryce Oliver will give Palmer more time and room to throw …
Postgame: WRONG! Palmer led La Serna with 96 rushing yards, with Garcia (56) next. He also ran for three TDs and the game-tying 2-point conversion late in the fourth quarter

the defense limits Norwalk’s big plays. Allowing one long run to Rashaad Penny probably won’t decide the game. Giving up two or more will …
Postgame: Penny did have just one long run, but he scored twice on long passes as well.

the game’s outcome hinges on one final drive for the La Serna. Palmer engineered fourth-quarter, game-winning drives against Westlake and Burbank, and PK Alex Vasquez has responded when called upon.
Postgame: Again, pretty shocked at how close I came

Norwalk will win if …
it wins the turnover battle. Norwalk has forced 27 turnovers this season, and Penny has fumbled just once this season in well over 200 chances …
Postgame: Two Norwalk interceptions offset two La Serna fumbles, but the punt snap over Penny’s head tipped the scales in La Serna’s favor

Penny runs like … well, Penny. The senior went for 321 yards and scored all five Norwalk TD’s in last week’s 35-28 semifinal victory over Muir …
Postgame: When La Serna focused on stopping the run, Penny made remarkable plays in the passing game instead.

its big defensive front can keep Palmer in the pocket. Chasing a guy with his mobility can get really old really quickly …
Postgame: Norwalk had just one sack, and Palmer was on the run when he threw the game-winning TD pass to Rosales

its wins the line of scrimmage. Tonight’s game will be a classic battle of Big & Strong vs. Small and Quick.
Postgame: Kudos to La Serna’s strength and conditioning coach

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