by Dan Albano
Photo Credit: Kevin Sullivan
COSTA MESA — Servite’s football team finally claimed the breakthrough victory it was seeking Thursday.
Now, the Friars might be in the Division 1 conversation in the CIF-SS for good.
The sophomore duo of quarterback Noah Fifita and wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan dazzled once again as No. 5 Servite defeated No. 2 JSerra 34-21 in a pivotal Trinity League game at Orange Coast College.
After a surprisingly close loss to St. John Bosco and a lopsided defeat against Mater Dei, the Friars (5-3, 1-2) earned their first league victory and proved the potential they showed against the Braves makes them Division 1 contenders.
“This was a big win,” said Fifita, who passed for four touchdowns and ran for another. “We finally showed everybody that the Bosco game wasn’t a fluke and we’re really here. I really hope it gets us into the Division 1 playoffs.
“It should be a fun road from here on out.”
Fifita completed his first seven passes and finished 23 of 36 for 270 yards and no interceptions.
He tossed touchdowns to four different receivers: McMillan, Zedakiah Centers, Damien Moun and running back Kyle Bandy.
The signature play belonged to McMillan, who made a spectacular, one-handed catch for a 2-yard touchdown reception early in the second quarter.
“Doesn’t surprise me,” Servite coach Troy Thomas said of McMillan’s grab. “I’ve seen them in practice and passing league. But that’s him. He’s special.”
JSerra (5-3, 1-2) responded well to McMillian’s grab and tied the score 14-14 in the second quarter. But Servite, ranked sixth in Division 1,scored twice in the final 3:02 of the first half to seize control against the No. 5-ranked Lions.
Fifita capped a 90-yard scoring drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Moun. Fifita then helped Servite capitalize on an interception by safety Jack Kane by scoring on a 1-yard run on fourth-and-goal with seven seconds left in the first half to give the Friars a 28-14 lead.
Servite’s offensive line didn’t allow a sack while the defense forced three turnovers.
Thomas believes his team needs to wins its next two games – against Santa Margarita and Orange Lutheran – to qualify for Division 1’s new elite 8 playoffs.
“This is a big win for our program,” he said. “They’re a nationally ranked team. For us to beat them is a big win for our young guys. … You come to Servite to be the best.”
JSerra quarterback General Booty scored on a 1-yard run early in the fourth quarter to trim the Friars’ lead to 28-21. But Fifita led another scoring drive and Servite’s defense made a late stand from its 9.
“We’re undisciplined and we don’t do what we’re supposed to do so I’m failing them as a coach,” JSerra coach Pat Harlow said.