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Payback next?

Saugus will now play St. Bonaventure again in the semifinals

Posted: November 28, 2008 10:14 p.m.
Updated: November 29, 2008 4:55 a.m.

Saugus defensive lineman Daniel Cordova (52) celebrates with teammates Adrian Cruz (24) and Jon Aguirre (29) after recovering a fumble Friday in the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division quarterfinals.

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Saugus football is set for a second date in the semifinals.

Centurions senior quarterback Desi Rodriguez did it all on Friday night at Cougar Stadium leading Saugus to a 35-28 win over Thousand Oaks in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division Northern Division playoffs.

With the win, Saugus (9-3) advances to take on St. Bonaventure next Friday on the road in a repeat semifinal matchup from last season.

The Seraphs won that game 55-36.

St. Bonaventure beat Paso Robles 32-7 on Friday night.

The quarterfinals was a shootout between Thousand Oaks running back John Lister and Rodriguez, whose respective runs produced highlight-reel drives in the back-and-forth battle.

Rodriguez had to pick up the slack for running back Ryan Zirbel, whose injured ankle forced him out of the game for most of the first half.

"I give all the credit to the offensive line," Rodriguez said.

Seniors Justin Peacock and Justin Wells and the rest of the men up front, opened up enormous holes in the defense, allowing Rodriguez to rush for 261 yards and three touchdowns.

Zirbel fought through the pain, picking up most of his 56 rushing yards in the second half, including a 16-yard run early in the third quarter that set up a Rodriguez touchdown.

"He's tender," said Saugus head coach Jason Bornn. "We wished we had two weeks (for the ankle to heal), but we didn't change our game plan."

The efforts of Rodriguez and Zirbel exemplified Bornn's message to the team

"It's just like life," said Bornn to his players. "If you want it you have to take it. You have to fight for it, and that's what you did."

Carrying the ball 37 times, it is easy to forget that Rodriguez throws the ball as well.

It was his 24-yard strike to Mario Lara with mere minutes left in the game that put the Centurions up for good.

The touchdown capped off a 16-play drive in which the Centurions had to convert a late fourth down.

On the ensuing Lancer possession, Thousand Oaks (10-2) fumbled a reverse.

Senior Daniel Cordova recovered and Saugus proceeded to run down the clock.

The Foothill League champions were unable to contain Lister, who broke through would-be tackles all night, nearly costing the Centurions the game.

Lister finished the game with 226 yards and one score, setting up all of the Lancers' touchdowns with his long runs and playmaking ability.

The senior running back credited Saugus' ability to wear down the clock, not giving the Lancers the opportunity to execute their game plan at the end of the game.

"We knew we had to get it done on the ground," Lister said. "Ball control. But we couldn't get the ball back."

The first touchdown came at 6:06 in the first quarter when Rodriguez marched Saugus 64 yards, hitting a wide open Kollin Depew for five yards across the face of the end zone.

Thousand Oaks and Lister responded, the running back putting it in from 7 yards out.

Rodriguez equaled the performance also scoring from 7 yards out on a drive that included runs of 32 and 21 yards to put Saugus back up 14-7.

Thousand Oaks quarterback Ian Shultis tied it up at 14 before halftime on a 24-yard strike to a wide open Robert Mullaney in the center of the field.

By the half, Rodriguez had rushed for 105 yards and a score and passed for 50 yards and one score.

Picking up the slack for the Lancers was Lister who went into the break with 169 yards.

The Lancers wasted little time getting into their groove in the second half, taking the ball 76 yards in two plays after a 66-yard run by sophomore running back Ricky Minyard.

Not to be outdone, Rodriguez scored on consecutive drives from 1 and 7 yards out after a defensive stand got the Centurions the ball back, taking the lead to 28-21.

Thousand Oaks scored their final touchdown on a 38-yard flee-flicker to wide receiver Curtis Dempster, tying the game at 28.

Saugus now looks forward to their matchup with St. Bonaventure, and likes its chances.

"They look more human than last year," Rodriguez said with a smile.



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