Wednesday, Nov. 24

CITY SECTION PLAYOFFS

CHAMPIONSHIP DIVISION

Quarterfinals

Birmingham 41, Taft 19
If 6-foot-6, 305-pound offensive guard Daniel Patricio and his fellow Lake Balboa Birmingham linemen weren't going to stuff themselves with turkey today, they'd expect running backs Brian Stuart and Milton Knox to feed them prime rib considering the pummeling they inflicted on Woodland Hills Taft Wednesday night.

Stuart rushed for 151 yards and scored two touchdowns and Knox gained 121 yards and scored one touchdown as Birmingham (8-4) earned a spot in the City Championship semifinals with a victory over West Valley League rival Taft (10-2).

"The coaches asked us to take it to the them," Patricio said. "We kept it up and never surrendered."

Said Birmingham Coach Ed Croson: "The offensive line dominated the game, and that's what it takes to win."

In avenging a 28-21 West Valley defeat to Taft on Oct. 29, the Patriots came up with a strong defensive performance that focused on containing elusive Taft quarterback Josh Portis, who was sacked four times and completed 13 of 25 passes for 133 yards with two interceptions.

Linebacker Byron Bullock stripped the ball from Portis in the first quarter and added a fourth-quarter interception. Lineman Hunter Rothman contributed two tackles for losses. And the Patriots' secondary limited Taft's super quick receiver, Jamere Holland, to three catches for 24 yards.

About the only effective Taft offensive player was sophomore running back Malcolm Smith, who rushed for 156 yards in 19 carries and scored one touchdown.

Taft closed to 34-19 with 2:36 left in the third quarter on Holland's five-yard touchdown reception from Portis. But Birmingham put together a 76-yard, four-play drive to seal the victory, with Stuart gaining every yard, including a two-yard touchdown run.

Birmingham opened a 28-13 halftime lead thanks to effective blocking by its offensive line, which enabled Knox, a freshman, to gain 100 yards and Stuart 57 yards. The Patriots scored touchdowns on four of their five first-half possessions.

Equally important was the Patriots' ability to stop Portis, who scored on a 39-yard touchdown run on Taft's opening possession, then was limited to six yards rushing the rest of the half.

Birmingham will play Harbor City Narbonne in next Friday's City Championship semifinals.

--Eric Sondheimer

Crenshaw 47, Venice 17