All week long, Tesoro's rallying cry had been "Shock the world."
Whenever they would break a huddle, they would yell in unison, "Shock the world."
Consider the world shocked.
Normally a linebacker, Blake Rodgers rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns in a substitute role to lead Tesoro to a stunning 24-20 victory over top-seeded Servite in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division playoffs on Friday night at Orange Coast College.
Servite wasn't just any team. This was the No. 2 team in the state, the No. 21 team in the nation, and the class of Southern California football for the better part of the last three seasons. Even though Tesoro has won section titles before, and even though the Titans have reached the Pac-5 finals, there was no doubt in Coach Brian Barnes' mind that this was the biggest victory in the program's history.
"I feel like I'm in a dream right now, seriously," said Rodgers, who has committed to Washington. "It's crazy, beating Servite. No one gave us a chance."
The Titans (8-4) took advantage of four turnovers by the two-time defending champion, one of them a fumble recovery by Jay Perez that helped trim a 20-3 halftime deficit to 20-17 with 4:25 left in the third quarter.
None of Servite's scores came from lengthy sustained drives. The Friars got a 20-yard punt return to set up a 39-yard drive, and a 47-yard interception return to set up a 23-yard scoring drive, and then the fumble return for a score—all in the second quarter to take a 20-3 lead.
The turning point came with 25 seconds left in the half.
Rodgers, a linebacker, was in the game on offense because Tesoro's best offensive threat, running back Nate Tago, was knocked out of the game; he fumbled on the play and Jherremya Leuta-Douyere returned it 24 yards for a score. At that time, it looked as if Servite (10-2) was on to the semifinals for the fifth time in seven seasons, until the Titan defense—and Rodgers—had something to say about it.
Rodgers was inserted into the backfield in place of Tago, and the Titans scored on their opening drive of the third quarter — 14 plays, 80 yards — with Rodgers scoring from the three with 5:25 left.
A minute later, Kyle Woolbright jarred the ball loose from Servite quarterback Cody Pittman and Perez returned the fumble 22 yards for a touchdown.
In the fourth quarter, with 5:18 remaining, Rodgers bounced off the pile and went 51 yards for the decisive score.
Servite had the ball twice more, but Pittman, who had thrown only two interceptions in 11 games, had passes intercepted twice, by Mike McQueen with 3:31 left and by Nick Crouch with 1:53 to go.
All Tesoro had to do at that point was run out the clock and close the door on Servite's impressive, and undisputed, reign in the Pac-5 Division.
Tesoro will play South Coast League rival San Clemente next week in the semifinals. The winner of that game will play either Mission Viejo or Santa Margarita for the Pac-5 championship.
The Titans lost to San Clemente, 31-6, in the final game of the regular season and finished third in league behind the Diablos and Tritons.
Tesoro 24, Servite 20
1 2 3 4 -- T
Servite 0 20 0 0 -- 20
Tesoro 3 0 14 7 -- 24
T-Zach Schottenfeld FG 30 0-3 7:09
S-Charlie Etiaki 9 run (Conner Bevans kick) 7-3 11:56
S-Cody Pittman 1 run (Bevans kick) 14-3 3:00
S-Jherremya Leuta-Douyere 24 fumble return (Bevans kick) 20-3 0:25
T-Blake Rodgers 3 run (Zach Schottenfeld kick) 20-10 5:25
T-Jay Perez 20 fumble return (Schottenfeld kick) 20-17 4:25
T-Blake Rodgers 51 run (Schottenfeld kick) 20-24 5:18