In a West Valley League opener pitting the reigning City Section Open Division and Division I champions, Birmingham proved it is still the team to beat by shutting out host Granada Hills 31-0 on Friday night to extend its winning streak to 35 games against section opponents.
The Patriots (4-2, 1-0 league) are vying for their fourth straight Open Division title under coach Jim Rose and it appears the same formula they used the previous three years — filling their nonleague schedule with ranked Southern Section or out-of-state teams to test their mettle before the playoffs — could pay dividends again. So far, so good.
“We played four quarters tonight,” Rose told his team afterward. “The offense still needs to get better, but we’re playing for 10 wins in a row. This was win No. 1.”
That would be five games in league, three in the City playoffs and CIF regional and state bowl games.
Birmingham has not been beaten by a City opponent since its 40-35 defeat at Fairfax in the City Open Division quarterfinals on Nov. 17, 2017. The Patriots last lost a league game Oct. 20 that year, 24-21 at El Camino Real.
Since then, the closest a team has come to beating Birmingham in league was Granada Hills last year. The Highlanders led 14-7 at halftime and Dijon Stanley’s fourth touchdown run gave them a 28-20 lead early in the fourth quarter, but Peyton Waters’ touchdown catch at the 6:34 mark got his team the lead back and Birmingham held on for a 29-28 win.
Quarterback Javen Hall, a senior transfer from El Camino Real, scored the first touchdown on a five-yard draw in the first quarter and broke the plane from a yard out on fourth and goal to cap the scoring with 5:41 left. He connected with Washington-bound Waters seven times, including a six-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
“This was my first full game and I felt a lot more comfortable,” said Hall, who played a few series in Birmingham’s 49-7 loss to Steele in Cibolo, Texas last Friday upon becoming eligible after the mandatory sit-out period for transfers. “I’m a dual-threat quarterback and I’ll do everything I can to help the team and not lose yards. We have a lot of guys who can make plays on this team so I try to get the ball to them.”
Waters had a second touchdown catch nullified by a penalty, while perhaps his biggest impact was in the kicking game as he boomed two punts that were downed at the one-yard line.
Jacy Oliva kicked a 38-yard field goal and Antrell Harris returned a fumble 16 yards for another score to make it 24-0 late in the third quarter.
Though still one of the best teams in the City, the Highlanders (3-2-1) are not nearly as explosive without Stanley, who ran for 2,756 yards and scored 36 touchdowns in leading Granada Hills to the Division 4-A state bowl game as a senior last fall. He is now a freshman tailback at Utah.
Granada Hills still has Dijon’s cousin Darrell Stanley, who amassed 1,291 yards as a sophomore last year and entered Friday with 607 yards and six touchdowns in 75 carries this season, but he was held to fewer than 30 yards and spent more energy on defense matching up with Waters.
Granada Hills (3-2-1) punted five times, turned it over on downs twice and gained fewer than 100 total yards.