After decades of watching other Long Beach high school football teams bask in postseason glory, Jordan has joined the party and the Panthers don’t want to leave these festivities.
Jordan once again came back to win a playoff game on Friday night and it’s just another historic victory as the Panthers edged Twentynine Palms 26-20 in the CIF Southern Section Division 11 semifinals.
After a low-scoring first half, Jordan retook the lead twice in the second half. The second score was a 15-yard touchdown pass from Makhi Travis to Jeremie McGurn with less than two minutes to play in regulation.
“This feels great,” McGurn said. “This is a dream come true to come to Jordan and win. We’re going to the championship. We’ve got to win now. The job’s not over with.”
Jordan Washington intercepted the first Twentynine Palms pass attempt after the go-ahead score and took it back for a touchdown to clinch the win and set off the celebration.
“I can’t put it in words right now,” Washington said. “This is humbling that we’ve made it this far. We came from nothing to something. I want to cry right now, man. This is crazy.”
This is the first semifinals appearance for Jordan and it will be its first ever football championship game. The Panthers will travel to face Northwood on Friday or Saturday.
“They all stepped up, did their jobs, kept fighting and they left it all on the field tonight,” Jordan coach Tim Wedlow said. “They were hungry. They really want this championship. They told me they want to practice on Thanksgiving. I don’t want turkey, I want a championship.”
Twentynine Palms led 10-6 in the middle of the third quarter when a 43-yard run by Damian Henderson got Jordan into scoring position. The Panthers faced 4th & 10 from the 18-yard line when Travis placed a perfect throw on the near pylon that Elijah Jones went to get for the go-ahead touchdown.
“I broke off the route and used my body and I got him,” Jones said.
“I just threw it to his back shoulder when I saw that he beat the corner,” Travis said.
The Panthers elected to go for the 2-point conversion, and after a false start penalty backed them up, Travis lofted a pass to the back corner for McGurn.
“I just put it up there and I knew Jeremie was going to get it,” Travis said.
McGurn went up and brought the ball in with one hand for a 14-10 lead with four minutes left in the third quarter.
“I did that just for show, I ain’t gonna lie,” McGurn said with a smile after the game. “I’ve been doing that all week and I just had to do it at least one time and it was the best time to do it.”
“Oh my god, I thought he was Odell Beckham Jr.,” Wedlow laughed.
Twentynine Palms used their unique run-heavy offense to answer with an incredible 22-play, 78-yard, 11:44 scoring drive that included a fake punt, a targeting penalty and two fourth down conversions. The second one came at the goal line when quarterback Luke Sidhu punched it in to give the Wildcats a 17-14 lead with 4:33 left in regulation.
“I said that we have to fight,” Jones told his team after the score. “This is playoffs and it’s not going to be easy but we’re going to go down the field and get it right now.”
On the ending drive with time running down, Travis hit Jones for a 35-yard completion between two defenders that put Jordan in scoring position. Jones finished the night with five receptions for 118 yards.
After running consecutive sweep plays to the far sideline, Jordan faced third down from the 15-yard line with 1:28 on the clock . The Panthers set up like they were going to run yet another sweep, and Travis sold the pitch fake perfectly, only to turn around and throw it to a wide open McGurn in the end zone on the back side of the play.
“I knew I was going to get the ball wide open because (the defense) shifted over… It felt great,” McGurn said of seeing the crowd react. “We’ve never had fans like this. But now everyone believes we can win. It just feels great. The whole community has come out to watch us. Nobody believed in us at first but now they do.”
Because of the extended Twentynine Palms drive, Jordan only ran 13 offensive plays after halftime. Travis completed all five of his attempts after halftime for 94 yards and two touchdowns.
“I told him all week that they were going to put eight in the box and we’re going to have to throw the ball,” Wedlow said of Travis. “I told him, ‘I believe in you and you can do it and this is the time to do it,’ and he did it. He stepped up.”
“We just stayed humble and played the game,” Travis said. “It’s hard to explain but it feels like greatness. We’re just making history.”
Both defenses were dominant in the scoreless first quarter while Jordan won the field position battle. McGurn, Washington, Dylan Falefitu and other Panthers defenders made some great plays with individual efforts against the frustrating Twentynine Palms run-heavy attack. Jordan held the visitors to just 75 offensive yards and four first downs in the first half while McGurn collected a game-high three sacks.
Jordan took a 6-0 lead late in the second quarter when Washington punched it in from a yard out after a massive third down pickup from Travis to McGurn, and a big 24-yard run down inside the five-yard line by Henderson.
It looked like the Panthers were going to take that lead into halftime but Sidhu picked off Travis with less than a minute left in the second quarter and took it back 70-yards for the touchdown that gave Twentynine Palms a 7-6 halftime lead. The Wildcats padded their lead with a field goal on their first second half drive.
“It was the same energy from last week,” Washington said of halftime. “We were in the locker room and I said that we’re not going to lose to ourselves. We were going to get this victory.”
After Washington scored his touchdown to give Jordan a 26-17 lead, Twentynine Palms’ Sam Niles kicked a 40-yard field goal with less than 20 seconds to play. Jordan recovered the onside kick to seal the victory.