By Brian Robin
SAN BERNARDINO – Admittedly, this was uncharted territory for both Servite and Cajon: one making a rare trip to the Inland Empire and the other making a rare trip down its quarterback depth chart.
With that, Friday night’s results were predictable. Behind four touchdown passes from its quarterback, Noah Fifita, and a defense that feasted on four Cowboys’ turnovers, Servite and its traveling road show easily handled Cajon and its beaten-up quarterback corps 45-21.
The surroundings weren’t totally foreign for the Friars, who bludgeoned JW North 48-7 two weeks ago in Riverside. But an Orange County school trekking to San Bernardino’s North End happens about once a generation. This year’s seniors were 2 years old the last time an Orange County school visited Cajon – Tustin in 2004.
“I have a lot of respect for the Inland Empire because there are a lot of tough kids out here and we need that,” Servite coach Troy Thomas said. “We need that. We need to play tough teams and they were willing to play us, so kudos to those guys.”
And kudos to Fifita, who was 14 of 28 for 311 yards and those four touchdowns, and his chief target, Zedakiah Centers, who caught six passes for 204 yards and three of Fifita’s touchdowns: 27, 69 and 61 yards. On almost all of those catches, Centers got himself one-on-one coverage, then managed to do what few receivers can do against Cajon’s athletic defensive backs – outrun them to the end zone.
Servite (2-1) scored on its first three possessions and led 22-6 after one quarter, which is right when Cajon (2-2) had to replace starting quarterback Patrick Ragan and his broken finger with Jonathan Calderon. After the graduation of All-CIF quarterback Jayden Daniels, Cajon coach Nick Rogers had the foresight early in the season to install a power offense to go with the spread attack he prefers, and Calderon managed to move the Cowboys enough to keep the ball out of the Friars’ hands.
Then, Calderon went down with a leg bruise, which meant 5-4, 120-pound Davion Negrete, last year’s JV quarterback, was the next man up early in the third quarter. Negrete did engineer two scoring drives, capping the last one with a 2-yard run with 5:10 remaining. But he also suffered a bit of bad luck when one of his passes was tipped and landed in the hands of Servite’s Jacob Blandberg, who returned the gift 36 yards for a touchdown.
That gave the Friars a 36-14 lead late in the third quarter and seemed to take the air out of a Cajon team quite unfamiliar with being on the wrong end of blowout losses.
“Part of (our offensive scheme) it is something we always try, physicality-wise and we knew these guys would be physical, so it would be tough,” Rogers said. “Servite is a physical team. But at the same time, we’re not ready to go down to our third quarterback. We just have to do a better job coaching and getting him ready for situations like that. That’s on us, not having everyone prepared. You don’t expect to lose your quarterbacks, but things happen.”