The Patriot's dream season comes to an end.
MISSION VIEJO CA: The Birmingham Patriots' dream of a triple crown season ended at Saddleback College as they fell short in the CIF Division 3-AA State Championship game to the Acalanes Dons 23-35. It was a tough defensive battle for both teams but in the end, it was Dons’ head coach Floyd Burnsed hoisting up the CIF State Championship trophy.
Burnsed said winning this championship was well-earned by his team and he tips his hat to Birmingham for giving it their all. He said it was a long road from Northern California to Southern California to win it all.
“Winning this championship makes it special because we beat an excellent team that is well-coached,” Burnsed said. “It was a tough-fought game and we were lucky to come out on top. Our guys made some great plays at the right time. We have great players and our hopes of playing well paid off.”
Burnsed has been coaching for many years and said by far this is the greatest moment of his career. He said that nothing compares to this moment.
“This championship ranks right up the top in my coaching career and it does not get any better than this,” Burnsed said. “Playing 15 games is a long season and we have been together a long time and our mission is completed”.
The main reason for the Dons getting this far is Acalanes Senior wide receiver and defensive back Trevor Rogers who won the CIF State 3 AA MVP. Rogers, who had a total of 107 yards with one touchdown with some key defensive plays, said that he knew that Birmingham was no pushover, especially going up against the Patriots running back Ronnell Hewitt.
“We noticed when looking at the film last week that Hewitt was one hell of a running back,” Rogers said. “When my team was watching the films of their previous games and how dominant Brimmingham is, we knew that we were going to be in a dogfight. They started to run the ball down our throat and got us into a big deficit but once our defense line stepped it up and made the big plays our linebackers got it done.”
Rogers said that the greatest reward of all is bringing home a state championship to Northern California. He said that words just can't explain how good the feeling is.
“It feels amazing because you get to represent your side of the state,” Rogers said. “This is special because this is our first ever state championship and to see members of our community witness us capturing the state championship trophy just makes it even better”.
As for the Birmingham Patriots, by no means do they have anything to be ashamed of. For the last four seasons, the Patriots have had an amazing run, winning four straight West Valley League Titles along with four straight CIF City Section Open Division Championships. The Patriots have dominated and outscored their opponents and the only thing that was missing was a state championship that did not complete the triple crown.
After winning the CIF City Section Open Division Championship win against Garfield, The Patriot road to the state championship was not an easy one. The following week Birmingham traveled to San Diego to face the Del Norte Nighthawks when the Patriots won on a hail mary pass from quarterback Kingston Tisdell to Devyn Jackson on a perfect deflection, giving the Patriots a 30-28 victory. However, Birmingham ran into a hungry Acalanes team that was not going to be denied a first-ever state championship.
Patriot's Senior wide receiver Peyton Waters said that his team simply played a better team that deserved to win. It did not end as Waters wanted, but he said it was a great ride.
“They are a really good team and we played a great team last week in the final seconds,” Waters said. “We couldn't expect to win by making too many mistakes which they took advantage of and they played well”.
Even though it was a tough loss for Birmingham, Waters said he has no regrets about this season and wants to graduate with his head high knowing that he did the best he possibly could as he prepares for his next chapter at the University of Washington.
“It was great being a part of three of the four straight CIF City Section Opening Division Championships and I will never forget that,” Waters said. “We are brothers and a family and we played together until the end. There was no giving up by playing for each other”.
Waters said his greatest time at Birmingham was learning, growing, and becoming a better athlete with the guidance of head coach Jim Rose who he believes one day will be recognized as a legendary coach and eventually earn his spot in the CIF Hall of Fame in the future.
“I believe coach Rose will be in the CIF Hall of Fame someday if he continues winning because he runs a great program,” Waters said. “I know he will win a state championship in the future and I will be there by his side when it happens”.
For Rose and his Patriots, it was another great season to remember even though things didn't go Birmingham’s way in the state championship game. He is still proud of his guys and knows that this is a learning experience that will carry on to the next season.
“We came a little short today and we just did not play our best game,” Rose said. “We had too many penalties but it was still a great game and it came down to the wire. There were opportunities to win the game and we had the lead going into the fourth quarter and we just did not finish it.”
Rose said that when you make big mistakes you can not expect to win. He pointed out that those big and small mistakes can either make you or break you, and it cost the Patriots the State Championship.
“We made a lot of mistakes and you can not expect to win the state championship like that,” Rose said. “Overall we had a great season that is for sure and our graduating seniors had experienced one of the greatest CIF City Section Open Division runs in our program history. It is tough to lose a state championship but I am still proud of my guys and this program”.
In the first quarter, Birmingham jumped on the scoreboard quickly. Less than two minutes into the game, Dredon Fowles ran in for a 25-yard touchdown. The extra point was good and the Patriots took a 7-0 lead.
However, Acalanes would strike back hard. The Dons Trevor Rogers took a pass from Sully Bailey for a 28-yard touchdown, just over two minutes later, with 7:57 on the clock, and the game was tied at 7-7 following the successful extra point. The Birmingham offense would push hard against Acalanes' defense. With 3:40 left in the quarter, Kingston Tisdell would connect with Peyton Waters for a 31-yard touchdown. The extra point was wide right and at this point, the score was 13-7 in favor of the Patriots at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, both the Patriots and the Dons fought a tough defensive battle for almost the entire period. With 1:15 left in the half, Tisdell would find Waters again, this one for a 3-yard touchdown connection. Ronnell Hewitt would run in for the two-point conversion and Birmingham extended their lead to 21-7.
Acalanes would strike back as the clock hit 0:00 when Jack Giorgianni scored a goal-line touchdown to end the first half at 21-14 in favor of the Patriots.
The Dons would pick up where they left off in the second half, coming out ready to fight. Bailey connected with Henry Souza for a touchdown with 9:08 on the clock to tie the game at 21-21.
Midway through the quarter, both teams would have back-to-back interceptions, and with less than four minutes on the clock, Acalanes was forced to punt the ball. The Birmingham defense would force the Dons to lose control of the ball and the Patriots scored on a safety. At that point, Birmingham was awarded two-points and the Patriots took a 23-21 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Seven seconds into the fourth quarter, Acalanes would strike back. Giorgianni would score his second touchdown of the game for the Dons with a pass reception from Bailey, giving Acalanes the first lead of the game.
Even though Birmingham's defense put pressure on Acalanes’ offense, the Dons would put the game out of reach for the Patriots. With 31 seconds left in the game, Paul Kuhnerb scored a touchdown pass and the game was over. The Acalanes Dons captured the school's first-ever CIF Division 3-AA State Championship.