With a 33-point lead and 42 seconds remaining in the first half, Riordan High quarterback Darius Bell and wide receiver Daniel Cannon provided an unlikely spin on what has been one of the most exciting combinations in the Bay Area this season. Cannon, the versatile receiver/defensive back who finished his career with a school-record 100 catches, took a handoff from Bell, ran toward the Riordan sideline, stopped and then hit Bell on the opposite side of the field for a 27-yard touchdown pass.
"I told coach last week that if we won, he better put in a receiving play," Bell said.
It was one of many memorable plays between the duo on a night when top-seeded Riordan could do just about anything out of its spread offense, and second-seeded Live Oak-San Jose struggled to hold onto the ball and contend with Riordan's speed and size. The Crusaders (9-3-1) toppled the Acorns 54-19 at San Jose City College in the Central Coast Section Medium School title game to win the school's first-ever CCS title. The Crusaders lost to San Lorenzo Valley in the final in 2000.
"This is all about showing what we can do," said Riordan second-year coach Mike Langridge, whose team was healthy after an injury-packed league schedule. "That first half was about as flawless as we've played."
Live Oak turned the ball over four times in the first half, including a goal-line fumble in the second quarter. Cannon, who scored three times on the night, had touchdown catches of 40 and 38 yards and also picked up a fumble and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown. He finished with 6 catches for 156 yards.
"We have some darn good receivers on this team and he's head and shoulders above them," Langridge said of Cannon. "He's a helluva player."
Bell, who completed 10 of 15 passes for 223 yards and four touchdowns, bruised his kneecap in practice on Wednesday and wasn't expected to play. But he threw away any doubts about his health on the first play of the game when he tossed a 23-yard pass to a soaring Cannon.
"It helps when your receiver is one of your best friends," Bell said. "You have that chemistry. We all know he's going to play at the next level."
Bell scrambled 6 yards for Riordan's second score with 5:59 left in the first quarter to show that the adrenaline was flowing, and the Crusaders scored on every one of their possessions in the first half.
"When we saw him show up for the bus and pad up," Cannon said of Bell, "it was a spark."
As much as Cannon and Bell were once again the story, Riordan's other seniors shined as well. Lineman Errol Tu'ufuli scored on a 1-yard run with 2:47 left in the first quarter, backup quarterback Daniel Brown threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Wood and Osa Aigbuza ran for 78 yards and caught three passes for 28 yards, including a 20-yard score on a screen pass from Bell to begin the scoring.