By Tim Peterson
(Santa Monica) – Santa Monica quarterback Wyatt Brown’s pass on a two-point conversion attempt was knocked down by the Rio Hondo Prep defense with no time remaining and the Kares beat the Vikings 29-27 Friday night to win the CIF Division 9 championship.
Tied at 21 Rio Hondo Prep put together a 9-play, 74-yard drive with Noah Penunuri scoring on a two-yard run to cap it. After an offsides penalty against Santa Monica, Penunuri ran in the two-point conversion to give the Kares a 29-21 lead with 1:09 remaining.
Santa Monica had one last shot however and the Vikings took full advantage. They marched 80 yards on 9 plays with Charles Cravings hauling in an 11-yard pass from Brown as the clock hit zeroes to make it 29-27. However Rio Hondo Prep stood tall on defense on the two-point attempt, and the celebration ensued.
The two teams exchanged scores in the first quarter. Santa Monica marched right down the field on the opening drive. Caden McCallum scored from two yards out to finish an 80-yard drive to make 7-0.
The Vikings forced the Kares to punt on the next possession but Santa Monica fumbled the punt and Tyler Dang fell on it for RHP on the Santa Monica 25. Three plays later Nate Curtis scored on a three-yard run to tie it at 7.
Santa Monica regained the lead early in the second quarter when Griffin Seals caught a 16-yard TD strike from Brown to complete another 80-yard march.
The Kares went 80 yards of their own on the next series. Penunuri found the endzone on an 8-yard run to cut the lead to 14-13. Rio Hondo Prep went for two but Penunuri was stonewalled at the goal line leaving the Kares down by one.
The Vikings had a golden opportunity to increase the margin but they were stopped at the one-yard line on fourth and goal late in the second quarter.
Santa Monica took the one-point lead into the half.
After a scoreless third quarter the Kares took their first lead of the night early in the fourth. Josh Taflinger hauled in a 17-yard pass from Alex Mustain to finish a 52-yard drive. Penunuri delivered on the two-point conversion on a run and it was 21-14 with 11:03 left in the fourth quarter.
Santa Monica tied it four minutes later on a three-yard run by McCallum to cap an 80-yard drive. The extra point knotted it at 21.
That led to the team’s exchanging touchdowns later in the fourth and the Kares big stop to secure the win and the CIF championship.
McCallum had a big night for Santa Monica with 157 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. Brown completed 16 of 25 for 246 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Seals caught six passes for 113 yards and a score.
For Rio Hondo Prep Penunuri rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. Curtis ran for 56 yards and a TD on 7 carries.
The Kares finished a remarkable season with an overall record of 13-1 and a CIF Division 9 championship. There may be more to come as the Kares find out where they land in the State playoffs to be announced Sunday.