12/5/15- Led by running back Isaiah Chatman, Belmont capitalized on four Hollywood turnovers to win the City Section Division III championship at Cerritos College and earn a berth in a CIF regional bowl game next week.
The 24-7 victory gave Belmont its first City football title in the school's 93-year history.
Chatman rushed for 31 times for 142 yards and quarterback Andrew Trujillo completed six of 12 passes for 98 yards and one touchdown.
"We made good tackles in the backfield and the secondary did its job," said defensive back Keiyon Johnson, who had two interceptions. "This feels amazing to make history. Coach said no one can ever top what we've done. Others may match it, but we're the only ones to do it the first time."
On the third play from scrimmage, Johnson intercepted a pass by Hollywood quarterback David Rothenberg and returned it 17 yards. The Sentinels drove 53 yards in 13 plays, scoring on Trujillo’s one-yard sneak on fourth and goal.
Belmont drove to the Sheiks’ 7-yard line on its next possession but came away with no points after Trujillo dropped a fourth-down pass from Joshua Arias in the end zone on a halfback option.
On Hollywood’s ensuing drive, Tyree Moore was stopped four yards short of a first down on a fake punt, giving Belmont the ball back at the Sheiks’ 28-yard line. Erik Diaz kicked a 24-yard field goal, extending the Sentinels’ lead to 10-0 with under two minutes left in the second quarter.
Hollywood answered on Rothenberg’s 37-yard touchdown pass to Max Peranidze to cut its deficit to 10-7 at halftime. Rothenberg completed nine of 16 passes for 175 yards.
Belmont recovered a Rothenberg fumble at Hollywood’s 8-yard line and Trujillo threw a six-yard touchdown pass to Arias to extend the Sentinels’ lead to 17-7 with 2:11 left in the third quarter.
An interception by Carlos Castillo set up a two-yard scoring run by Diaz to put Belmont ahead 24-7 with 5:37 remaining in the game. Johnson’s second interception with 3:42 left clinched the victory.
The teams met Oct. 30 to decide the Central League title and Belmont prevailed 7-6.
Peranidze caught six passes for 156 yards for Hollywood, which was seeking its first City title since 1927.
11/28/15- The two best players in City Section Division III all season have been running back Erik Diaz of Belmont and quarterback David Rothenberg of Hollywood.
Incredibly, both went down with injuries in the first quarter on Friday night in their respective semifinal games and their teammates somehow found a way to win.
Diaz was replaced by sophomore Isaiah Chatman, who scored a touchdown running and receiving in Belmont's 23-22 win over West Adams.
Rothenberg was replaced by sophomore Ray Hardy, who passed for three touchdowns in Hollywood's 20-7 win over Manual Arts.
"It's flabbergasting," Belmont Coach Gregg Barden said of the injuries. "It shows the resiliency of the two teams."
It remains to be seen if either will be able to play in next Saturday's 11 a.m. final at Cerritos College.
Diaz suffered a shoulder injury. He's expected to receive treatment this week and might make it back.
Rothenberg is on crutches after his Achilles was stepped on by a cleat. His availability is doubtful.
10/30/15- It was Halloween eve on Friday night in Hollywood, and everything looked normal. Marilyn Monroe, holding a red umbrella, was greeting tourists with a seductive "Hello there." Batman was posing for photos. A man carrying multiple snakes was assuring everyone they don't bite.
But the most stunning scene was taking place at Hollywood High, where the unbeaten Sheiks were playing unbeaten Belmont in a football game no one ever dreamed possible.
Belmont, which opened in 1923, has never won a City Section football title and last won a league title in 1993. Hollywood, the school of Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney and Carol Burnett, last won a City title in 1927 and hasn't won a league title since 1978.
Belmont's star player, running back-cornerback Erik Diaz, might never have been playing football. He was a club soccer player who was accidentally placed in a football P.E. class as a sophomore and ended up liking it and staying.
So there he was late Friday night, exhausted and lying on the turf as teammates jumped up and down around him celebrating a 7-6 victory over Hollywood to improve to 9-0 and clinch at least a tie for the Central League title.
"It's just amazing how it all turned out," said Diaz, who scored his team's only touchdown on a 65-yard run at the outset of the third quarter to wipe out a 6-0 halftime deficit and then kicked the winning extra point.
Then he looked around and saw the Hotel Roosevelt and El Capitan Theatre overlooking Hollywood's all-weather field on a clear, breezy night and figured out he just had a Hollywood ending in Hollywood.
Belmont's rise behind third-year Coach Gregg Barden is another story. He spent 19 quiet years as an unknown junior varsity coach, then got hired as head coach in May 2013. Soon afterward he was selected as the jury foreman for the Michael Jackson wrongful-death civil trial against AEG that lasted five months and thrust him in front of hundreds of media at the conclusion when the 12-person jury awarded zero money to the Jackson family.
"I lost my summer," he said.
Diaz rushed for 167 yards in 23 carries and also was a key tackler on defense in trying to contain Hollywood quarterback David Rothenberg, who rushed for 124 yards and scored his team's only touchdown on its first possession, running five yards for the score.
Rothenberg had never played football until his senior year, even though he was one of the best athletes at Hollywood. He has led the Sheiks to an 8-1 record and there's every indication these two upstart teams could meet again in the City Section Division III final on Dec. 5 at Cerritos College.
See the game highlights at: http://touch.latimes.com/#section/626/video/p2p-84883306/
9/26/15- Erik Diaz is the accidental football player who has helped lead Belmont High, more known for its soccer and cross country success, to a 4-0 start and a No. 1 ranking in City Section Division III.
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