Serra Conquistadors 41, Del Norte Nighthawks 30
The Division IV quarterfinals match up between the Serra Conquistadors (9-3) and Del Norte Nighthawks (6-5) was similar to a boxing match; both teams took their shots at each other and exchanged a relentless amount of blows. However, it was Serra who took the cake against Del Norte thanks to a 21-point fourth quarter.
At the game’s start, it seemed like the theme was going to be hard-nosed defense combined with a power running game, as quarterbacks Timmy Zebroski and Nolan Booher struggled to find liftoff in the passing game.
Both defenses attacked the opposing offenses like a pack of hungry wolves, with Del Norte’s Jake Hadzicki getting to Booher in the backfield for a sack. Drawing first blood in the game was Serra’s Dustan Ellison, who found a hole on the left side and running an impressive 73 yards for a touchdown.
Serra’s defense had been portraying their best act as a brick wall by limiting Nighthawk tailback Manai Hazlet to only a handful of yards on each play. But the secondary was also hungry for some action as a floater from Booher was snagged out the air by Broock Desta, who returned the ball to the 2-yard line.
This would carry over to the next quarter as, after being moved back a few yards thanks to a penalty, Zebroski would lob a touchdown pass to make the score 13-0. Del Norte would respond with a touchdown of their own after slowly chipping away at Serra’s defense. Scoring the touchdown from five yards out was Hazlet, making the score 13-8 after a two-point conversion.
The next two touchdowns were the results of long and physical drives. First, it was the Conquistadors driving in a 5-yard touchdown from Ellison, only to watch as the Nighthawks made the score 20-16 on a 13-yard touchdown pass to Owen Phimmasane. Neither team gave an inch as the score was 20-16 at the half.
The third quarter belonged to the Nighthawks entirely, as they drove down the field in the third quarter to take the lead for the first time in the game with a 21-yard touchdown run from Hazlet. Crucial padding was added after Hazlet scored his third touchdown of the game and second of the quarter. Suddenly, Del Norte had a comfortable lead going into the fourth quarter.
Even though Serra was down and on the ropes, their fighting spirit hadn’t left them yet. Zebrowski began the quarter by keeping the ball for himself and scoring a 10-yard touchdown, making the score 30-27. Then, with his team driving, Zebroski would find Nathan Meyers in the back of the end zone, thrusting Serra back into the lead.
The Conquistadors defense stood fast against a desperate Del Norte offense and got the ball back to their offense. The dagger to the Del Norte fan’s hearts came in the form of an Ellison touchdown, putting the game out of reach at 41-30 and eliminating Del Norte from the playoffs.
Serra gets a true test next week as they are slated to face the second seeded Kearny Komets (10-1), who are coming off of a massive win against Classical Academy.
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Preview: PPR is back to cover the second week of the playoffs, and this week will be a clash of battle-hardened teams and well-rested squads coming off bye weeks. After a crushing defeat of Sweetwater last week, the sixth-seeded Serra Conquistadors (8-3) face a tough test as they go on the road against the third-seeded Del Norte Nighthawks (6-4).
Despite having a five-game shutout streak snapped against Sweetwater last week, the Conquistadors still had a day to remember on the offense, even breaking a school record for points scored in a season with a first-quarter touchdown.
Timmy Zebrowski had himself a day and will look to keep on rolling. His three touchdowns last week increased his season total to 20 against only four interceptions. His primary targets will be sophomore receiver Mark Genevich and junior wideout Broock Desta.
Zebrowski is balanced out by running back Dustan Ellison, who carried the rock 16 times for 105 yards while picking up three touchdowns.
The defense cannot be underestimated as they caused nightmares for the Sweetwater offense. Seniors Allen Scott and Aren Cobb were continually attacking the ball and the two came away with 11 and seven tackles respectively.
They now face an old foe in Del Norte. The Nighthawks got the better of them in Week 2, edging them out 35-32 in what was an intense back-and-forth game that the Conquistadors would like to take back.
The Nighthawks were led to the third-seed thanks to a balanced offense led by sophomore quarterback Nolan Booher, who has thrown for 10 touchdowns and 1259 yards on the season. He has three wideouts of equal threat to throw too in Alex Moore, Francisco Sanches, and Mo Farah.
The central element of their offense has to be sophomore running back Manai Hazlett. The tailback has 1348 rushing yards to his name and average 6.3 yards a carry. Combine this with his 10 touchdowns and seven runs of 100+, and Serra will have trouble containing this dynamic running back.
This is sure to be an intense matchup between two potent offenses. Both defenses are capable of shutting down the other team, so it sure to be a back-and-forth game just like their last matchup.
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