The team few thought belonged on California’s biggest stage pulled off Northern California’s only victory late Saturday night at the Home Depot Center.
Grant, from the toughest streets of Sacramento, took a me-against-the-world approach and stunned one of the nation’s top programs with a 25-20 victory over Long Beach Poly in the CIF State Bowl Game Open Division championship.
In the last high school football game in the country this season, the Pacers (14-0) matched Poly hit-for-hit and blow-for-blow and even after squandering an early lead, came back from two fourth-quarter deficits to knock off the nation’s No. 4 team, a tough-minded squad that had pulled off four playoff games with second-half comebacks.
“We shocked the world,” players and coaches kept shouting during a raucous post-game celebration. “We shocked the world.”
Darvin McCauley, who opened the scoring with a brilliant 54-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter, ended things off with a 15-yard scoring reception from Kipeli Koniseti with 1 minute, 11 seconds remaining for the game-winner.
Grant’s defense, which gave up just 243 yards, allowed one first down but then forced three incompletions. On fourth-and-10 from midfield, Morgan Fennell completed a pass to Kaelin Clay that landed inches short of a first down.
The unranked Pacers, who many thought believed belonged in the Division I game behind six-time mythical national champion De La Salle, kneeled on it, setting off a wild celebration.
“I just told our boys to stay calm and keep playing and we’d find a way to pull it out,” said Koniseti, who completed 13 of 26 for 236 yards and two scores. “I love my boys. We pulled this out for Sacramento and for Northern California. Nobody thought this was possible but us.”
Said Grant coach Mike Alberghini: “I said all week this was a 12-round fight and we each delivered one blow after another. But we delivered the last one. I couldn’t be prouder.”