Birmingham routs Banning, advances to Open Division football final

First there was Mason White, who blocked kicks, made interceptions and caught touchdowns as the top player in the city section of 2019. Then there was Arlis Boardingham, who was the city section’s top player in 2021 in making tackles, catching passes and doing everything. They helped Lake Balboa blitz Birmingham High through his City opponents.

The Patriots again have the City Section’s best player in junior receiver cornerback Peyton Waters, who is helping extend a 33-game unbeaten streak against City opponents.

“He’s the next guy after Mason and Arlis,” said coach Jim Rose. “The kids look up to him now. Last year he was more of a role player. Now he’s the guy we’re looking at. If he does well, we will do well.”

Waters caused major problems for Wilmington Banning in Friday night’s Open Division semifinals. He caught a 31-yard touchdown pass from Kingston Tisdell and then scored a blocked punt in the first quarter. Birmingham (7-4) continued to a dominant 42-7 away win to earn a trip to Saturday’s championship game at Valley College against Garfield, who defeated Eagle Rock 38-20.

Still growing at 6ft 2 and 170 pounds, Waters is giving college recruiters something to think about — whether he’s better as a cornerback or receiver. The same dilemma happened with Boardingham last season (he’s now a tight end in Florida).

“Waters is definitely her stud,” said Banning trainer Raymond Grajeda.

Birmingham knocked Banning out of the playoffs last season, beating the 12-time City champions in the 2019 final. This banning team offered a different challenge. Gone was the grind-it-out team, replaced by an offense that can pass the ball with quarterback Robert Guerrero. But the Patriots defense got a fourth sack from Maynor Morales in the first half and never looked back, opening a 28-7 halftime lead.

The Patriots’ young but improving offensive line, led by brothers Nick and Bo Tonga, continued to punish the Pilots and paved the way for running backs Morgan Naiim and Ronnell Hewitt, who each had two touchdowns. Naiim rushed for 215 yards in 20 carries and had a 66-yard touchdown run to start the third quarter. Hewitt, a freshman, had 80 yards rushing.

“The line played great,” said Rose. “There were holes for the running backs all night. You should invite her to dinner.”

Next week’s Thanksgiving dinner will never taste better for Birmingham after they earned the right to practice on Thursday morning and feast on turkey drumsticks, stuffing and mashed potatoes in the evening in preparation for taking part in yet another Open Division final.

Birmingham started the season by losing four of the top five to Southern Section opponents and then completed their usual turnaround against City Section teams, although the closeness of some results had people wondering if the Patriots could really pull off another title run could. Last week’s double overtime win over No. 2-seeded Venice gave the Patriots a huge confidence boost.

They were never threatened on Friday night and with continued improvement, they’re a year ahead of their expected progress considering the team is filled with undergrads in starting roles.

Ace Acosta and Jojo Adams had interceptions for Birmingham. Birmingham routs Banning, advances to Open Division football final

Emma Bowman

Emma Bowman is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Emma Bowman joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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