NORWALK - The Mayfair High football didn't hope to win Friday night's CIF Southern Section Southern Division title game against top-seeded Laguna Hills. The Monsoons expected to win, and that's why it hurt so much when they didn't.
Mayfair led the Hawks at halftime and was tied after three quarters, but a couple big plays and some key defensive stops by Laguna Hills were the difference in a 28-21 loss at Cerritos College. The Monsoons, who reeled off nine consecutive victories after opening the season with four straight losses on the field, finished the campaign at 10-4 while the Hawks ended their championship run at a perfect 13-0.
"(Laguna Hills) made some big plays," said Mayfair co-coach Mike Fitch following the Monsoons' first title-game appearance since 2001.
He was referring to a 49-yard flanker pass from A.J. Martin to Shawn Tucker for a third-quarter touchdown and a 30-yard pass from Martin to quarterback Robert Refsnyder on a double-reverse in the fourth that set up the winning score.
"If you're going to win a championship, you have to make some big plays and that's what they did," added Fitch.
Mayfair opened the game brilliantly and took a 7-0 lead following a nine-play, 80-yard drive. Senior tailback Ronald Kennedy Jr. carried three times on the drive for 54 yards, including a 12-yard TD run with 8:28 left in the quarter.
The lead grew to 14-0 early in the second when quarterback Jimmy Ohiri found Brandon
Mayfair also forced a pair of fumbles in the first half - including one at its own 1-yard line when the Hawks were threatening to score in the second quarter - but never turned either into any points.
"We didn't capitalize (on the turnovers)," Fitch said. "We didn't convert off (a first-quarter fumble by Tucker) and basically let them off the hook."
The key moment in the game may have been a fourth-and-1 situation for Mayfair at Laguna Hills' 32 with the score tied, 21-21, early in the fourth quarter. Kennedy took the ball on a sweep to the left but was stopped for no gain by the Hawks' Matt Giovinazzo and Tommy Finley.
"They stopped us at what we do best (rushing)," Fitch said, "and they won."
Laguna Hills then marched 68 yards in just five plays, keyed by a 30-yard trick play from Martin to Refsnyder. Martin's pass was underthrown, but the 6-foot Refsnyder outjumped a pair of Monsoon defenders to make the catch. Three plays later, the senior quarterback ran 4 yards for the game-winning score with 7:27 left.
After the 49-yard TD pass from Martin to Tucker tied the game at 14, the Monsoons regained the lead following an interception by Andre Allen Jr. Ohiri completed a 12-yard pass to Jakob Johnson on the first play and Kennedy broke off a 14-yard run on second-and-7. Ohiri finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 6:06 left in the third.
But the Hawks took advantage of terrific field position following a long kickoff return and tied the game again on their next drive.
Laguna Hills needed just 41 yards to score and did so on an 8-yard pass from Refsnyder to Michael McCullough with 3:02 left in the third. Refsnyder completed a 20-yard pass to Martin on third-and-5 and ran for another 4 on a busted play that should have lost yardage.
"We had our opportunities," Fitch said. "When opportunity knocks, you have to answer the call and we didn't."