by Dan Albano
Photo Credit: Robert Casillas
GARDENA – Servite’s remarkable turnaround campaign faced a consistent but short-handed contender Friday for a berth in the CIF-SS Division 2 football championship game.
The Friars passed the test and continued to look forward.
Quaid Carr recorded his sixth consecutive 100-yard rushing game, scored two touchdowns and picked up a key first down on a gutsy call in the final minutes to lead Servite past Serra 28-20 in the semifinals at Serra High.
Servite (8-5) will face Mission Viejo in the Division 2 final. The game will be played on Friday or Saturday with Mission Viejo as the host school.
Last season, Servite finished 1-9 – the worst record in school history – and then parted ways with successful coach Troy Thomas, who was in his second tenure at the school.
Just one season earlier, Servite stunned St. John Bosco in the Division 1 semifinals en route to a runner-up finish to Mater Dei.
The Trinity League school hired alumnus Chris Reinert as its coach and is now one victory away from a sixth section title.
“(It’s) the resilience of the guys, the belief, the fact we can battle through adversity,” Reinert said of the turnaround. “(Serra) went through its own adversity tonight. It’s a shame that we didn’t get to play against their two really outstanding players but we’re not making excuses for anybody.”
Serra (9-4) played without speedy running back Cincere Rhaney and wide receiver Zacharyus Williams.
Rhaney and Williams, who entered with a combined 39 touchdowns, were injured in a 38-28 victory against Los Alamitos in the quarterfinals, Serra coach Scott Altenberg said.
Servite sealed the victory by converting a fourth-and-2 from its 10-yard line coming out of Serra’s final timeout with about 2:30 left in the fourth. Carr gained 5 yards on the run to finish with 136 yards on 20 carries, and the Friars ran out the clock.
The dramatic play came moments after Servite recovered a fumble at its 2 with 3:24 left. It was the third turnover collected by the Friars and protected a 28-20 lead.
Servite opened a 21-6 lead at halftime behind a fast start by Carr and an opportunistic offense.
The junior broke a 69-yard touchdown run, his 17th score of the season, on the second play from scrimmage to give the Friars a quick 7-0 lead.
Later in the first period, Servite recovered a muffed punt at the Serra 49. The Friars converted the special teams play into 34-yard field goal by Adrian Cabrera, who made it 10-0.
After Serra cut the lead to 10-6 late in the first period, Servite opened the second quarter with 10-play, 58-yard scoring drive capped by a 14-yard TD pass from Leo Hannan to sophomore Luke Sorensen. Hannan tossed the 2-point conversion to Ethan Naudin as the Friars took an 18-6 lead.
Servite’s defense helped preserve the lead by opening the third quarter with an interception by Jaden Welch and a fourth-down stop at its 38.
The Friars’ offense added a 5-yard touchdown run by Carr early in the fourth quarter to push their lead to 28-6. Serra responded with two touchdowns to trim Servite’s lead to 28-20 with 5:16 left, setting the stage for a wild ending.