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Narbonne's offense came alive in the second half, as A.J. Richardson (above) and quarterback Troy Williams got them back in the game, but in the end they fell short of the State Bowl. Photo by Jason Lewis
Narbonne had one of the greatest runs in City Section history, but they fell just short of the State Bowl.
Narbonne had been great on both sides of the ball for practically the entire season as they knocked off some of Southern California's best teams, and they were riding a 19 game winning streak, which included two City Section championships.
But in the first half of the State regional finals, Corona Centennial dominated the game on offense and defense. Centennial held a 20-0 second quarter lead, and a 27-8 halftime lead, as their offense had their way running and passing the ball, and their defense had Narbonne's fast paced offense looking out of sorts. Narbonne quarterback Troy Williams is one of the best in the nation at his position, but he struggled, along with the entire offense.
After Centennial was stopped on their opening drive of the game, they went on to score touchdowns on four consecutive possessions and the rout looked like it was on. Their huge offensive line opened holes up the middle for running backs, and they were able to find open receivers over the middle of the field for big gains.
Centennial not only looked bigger than Narbonne in the first half, surprisingly, they looked faster too. They also outwitted Narbonne's defense with a good mix of running and passing plays, based on how Narbonne's defense lined up.
The first half was forgettable for Narbonne, and the game looked like it was a wrap, but they did not want to go down as the City team that could not play with the big boys.
"I just told them at halftime that if we were going to go out, Troy was going to throw for 400 yards," Narbonne Head Coach Manuel Douglas said. "I told the offensive coaches that we were just going to sling it. We have a guy that is going to play Division I football, and be in college next month. So we weren't just going to have him hand the ball off. We were going to go out the way we came in, gun slinging."
Williams is the leader of this team, and this team fed off of him in both halves. In the first half he seemed tentative at times, as if he was protecting a reported sore shoulder. But in the second half he let it loose, and Narbonne's offense was nearly unstoppable as they charged back into the game.
There was one play in the first half where Williams looked like he could have run for a first down, but he ran out of bounds instead. In the second half he was not looking to run out of bounds at all, and he was looking to fight for every yard that he could get.
Narbonne's comeback started with a 98-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter, where Williams had a key long run, and then he hit wide receiver A.J. Richardson on a 12-yard touchdown pass.
Narbonne's next possession went for 80 yards, which ended with a 27-yard touchdown run by Williams, cutting the lead to 27-22. At this point it was anybody's game.
After a Centennial 80-yard touchdown drive, making the score 34-22 early in the fourth quarter, Narbonne went to work, easily marching down the field on touchdown drives of 69 yards and 65 yards. The second touchdown, coming with 1:09 remaining in the fourth quarter, tied the ball game at 34 a piece.
The game appeared to be heading into overtime, but Centennial had other plans. Starting from their 20 yard line they steadily marched down the field. They had been giving Narbonne's cornerbacks major problems with ins, outs, and slant routes. Without much safety help due to an injury in their lineup, Narbonne cornerbacks were left on an island where they had to respect the deep route, which allowed Centennial receivers to have what ever they wanted underneath.
With 22 seconds left to play, Centennial scored the final touchdown of the game, giving them a 41-34 victory, and sending them to the State Bowl on Saturday at the Home Depot Center.
The fight that Narbonne put up in the second half was worthy of any championship team. When they were in bad spots they never quit, and they proved once again that they can play with any team in the state. But all great things come to an end at some point. Now they have to find a way to regroup and make another run.
"I think we represented the City well," Douglas said. "That was our main objective, and not to fall on our faces. But in the first half it looked like we were going to, and that bothered me because I knew that we were better than that. I'm proud of my guys for fighting back and tying the game with under a minute, but we didn't get it done.
"It was rarefied air for us to be here and I hope that we can continue to be in this type of company year in and year out," Douglas said.
Williams, who is committed to Washington, finished the night completing 28 of 37 passes for 362 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed for 105 yards on 11 carries with a touchdown. Richardson, who is committed to Cal, caught nine passes for 108 yards with one receiving touchdown and one rushing touchdown.
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