The Jordan football team made history Friday night in Irvine, playing in the program’s first-ever CIF Southern Section championship game, and bringing home the program’s first-ever CIF-SS plaque. The only problem? It wasn’t the color plaque they wanted to put in the trophy case. The Panthers fell short on the road against Northwood as their offense struggled to get in gear in a 37-14 defeat.
“It’s not what I wanted, it’s not what the team wanted,” said Jordan coach Tim Wedlow. “We wanted to come out victorious and walk out of here with a victory. But it was a great ride–this team was 0-3 in the Spring and I know a lot of guys were thinking about leaving. But they stayed and they worked and they stuck it out. And they made history for their school this year.”
The game couldn’t have started out much more auspiciously for the Panthers, as star junior Damian Henderson took the opening kickoff back 60 yards to start the game, showing what looked like a best-case scenario for Jordan’s offense. Henderson hit the left corner and simply outran the Timberwolves to set the Panthers up at the 23 yard line. After a five-yard run for sophomore Jordan Washington, quarterback Makhi Travis hit Jeremie McGurn for an 18-yard touchdown. Just that fast, Jordan was ahead 7-0 after 69 seconds.
But the Panthers offense couldn’t get into rhythm again after that, with their next three drives failing to net a first down. The Jordan defense did a great job of holding the Timberwolves out of the end zone as both Washington and Elijah Jones had fumble recoveries, but eventually the consistent pounding of Northwood RB Adam Harper broke through. Early in the second quarter, Harper set them up on a first and goal at the one, and QB Eugene Miyata punched it in on a keeper. They ended up taking a 14-7 lead on a backshoulder pass from Miyata to freshman Joseph Harper to cap an extensive drive.
The first drive of the third quarter saw another Harper-dominated drive where he carried the ball seven times in a row and punched it in for a three-score lead. Miyata scored on another run to make it 30-7, then Jordan got a safety after a drive that saw them start on their own three-yard line. A 38-yard touchdown on the ensuing drive by Harper made it 37 unanswered points for the Timberwolves.
The Panthers answered back after that with their best drive of the night, as Travis hit Elijah Jones for several mid-range passes, then Washington took a swing pass 31 yards for a score. Jordan struggled to get the ball to their playmakers as Washington, Henderson, and McGurn had only a handful of touches each.
Jordan had better drives in the fourth quarter but weren’t able to punch it in again, even as the defense was able to stand up and keep the Northwood lead from growing.
“We got from point A to point B, now we have to try to get back here again next year,” said Wedlow. “We’re a young team, we only have seven seniors with everyone else coming back. Nobody thought during the Spring we’d be a CIF contender and here we are.”
The biggest highlight of the night for Jordan was the crowd, which was jam-packed in the visitor stands. Long Beach vice mayor Rex Richardson purchased 100 student tickets for the Panthers which helped contribute to the best crowd the school has seen in a long time.
“It was very special, special for the kids and for me and the community,” said Wedlow. “We’ll be back.”