Birmingham routs Garfield for another City football title

There was shock and awe at Saturday night’s City Section Open Division championship football game at Valley College, with Lake Balboa Birmingham providing most of the entertainment.

As if anyone needs more proof that the rising Patriots (9-4) are at their peak, they beat Garfield for five touchdowns on their first five possessions for a five-touchdown halftime lead. There was a running clock until the fourth quarter. Birmingham got away with a 49-13 win.

It’s the third consecutive Open Division championship for coach Jim Rose, whose team has won 34 straight games against City Section opponents.

Senior running back Naiim Morgan, backed by an exceptional offensive line, had a memorable first half. He rushed for 225 yards in 13 carries and had three touchdowns. At almost 200 pounds, he was too big, too fast and too strong for the overpowered Bulldog defenders. He finished for 292 yards in 16 carries and had four touchdowns.

The Patriots attempted just one pass in the first 23 minutes and it went for a 70-yard touchdown from Kingston Tisdell to Peyton Waters. The Patriots stormed more than 400 yards that night.

Leading 35-0 at halftime, Birmingham lost some interest in the third quarter and Garfield scored on a 16-yard touchdown run from Damian Cornejo. That’s when the Patriots decided to ask Morgan for a little help. He broke up rushes for 38 and 27 yards, resulting in his fourth touchdown of the night.

The Patriots have become almost Narbonne-like in their dominance over City Section opponents, albeit with one major difference. They didn’t produce the crowd of college prospects that the Gauchos produced from 2014-2018, when they won every major league championship until they had to vacate the 2018 title for an ineligible player. What Birmingham has is quality.

This was to be the year Birmingham would be beaten to Florida with Arlis Boardingham and plenty of sophomores and juniors in the lineup. But when the Patriots made it past Venice in a double-overtime thriller in the opening game of the Open Division playoffs, they wiped out the competition.

Morgan was a star with his determined running. The Patriots are also tackling well, getting solid play from Tisdell at quarterback and hinting that their best days are ahead with just six seniors in starting roles. They went 4-1 in non-league games against Southern Section opponents, but that was a long time ago and the state playoffs that start next week will be an intriguing test of how well they do against outside opponents of the City Section will be cut off.

Lorenzo Hernandez, in his 25th season, has steered the Bulldogs to seek success beyond their annual rivalry game with Roosevelt. He had been waiting for this group of undergraduates. They had played youth football together and there was only one senior in the starting line-up, an indication Garfield (10-3) will be back for a rematch next season.

Dijon Stanley runs wild

Granada Hills had not won a City Section football championship since 1987. And the Highlanders have never had a teenager run as fast as senior Dijon Stanley, the 400-meter city champion.

Every time Stanley gets his hands on the football, he can take the breath away of fans and opponents alike. His first carry in Saturday’s City Section Division I championship game at Valley College resulted in a 39-yard touchdown streak. Then came touchdown runs of 41, 90, 12 yards. At halftime he had 293 yards rushing.

Palisades had no answer for Stanley, who came in with 367 rushing yards and five touchdowns and helped the Highlanders (11-2) end their championship drought with a 44-7 win.

Granada Hill coach Bucky Brooks, an NFL analyst on television and radio, didn’t have much time to celebrate. He had to take a Redeye flight to Florida. He’s the part-time reporter for Jacksonville shows. A former NFL player, Brooks helped develop Stanley as a football player. But he has to explain to coaching at John Elway’s alma mater why the Highlanders haven’t completed a single pass this season.

“We have to do what works for the kids,” Brooks said.

Stanley is committed to Utah. Stanley is used as both quarterback and fullback in the double-wing offensive formation. The Highlanders will now advance to next week’s State Bowl games and get to know their opponent when Sunday’s matchups are released.

The Granada Hills defense was also characterized by a strong game. Sean Lopez and Oliver Taylor each recorded sacks, and Orion Norcon returned an interception 72 yards to the 10-yard line.

“We train at 5:30 a.m. every day,” Stanley said. “Many can’t”

The Highlanders lost in the first round of the playoffs last season, then started training a week later and the hard work paid off. Birmingham routs Garfield for another City football title

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