All season, the Lowell football team dominated the Academic Athletic Association based on its short-yardage, ball-control offense that gradually wore down defenses with constant pushes up the middle.
In a 22-14 victory over fourth-seeded Mission in the San Francisco Section semifinals at Kezar Stadium, the top-seeded Cardinals proved they could also be dangerous with the big play.
Lowell got three long touchdown runs from Duc Anh Le, Marcos Cronander and Bismark Navarro and an opportunistic defense forced five turnovers to pace the Cardinals to victory.
Lowell (10-1) advances to the Turkey Bowl on Thanksgiving, where it will face Lincoln at Kezar.
Le put Lowell up 6-0 on the Cardinals’ second offensive play of the game, busting up the middle of Mission’s defense for an 83-yard touchdown run with 8:31 left in the first quarter.
"With our offense, every play could be a big one," said Le, who carried 14 times for 149 yards, part of a 361-yard Lowell rushing effort. "We know if we keep pounding the ball, eventually were going to break a big one."
Mission (5-6) quickly responded after the Le touchdown, thanks to the exploits of star running back DeAngelo Winston, who was absent for the teams’ regular-season matchup, which Lowell won 28-6.
Winston, who ran 30 times for 215 yards, carried six times for 39 yards on a nine-play, 50-yard scoring drive, capping off the series with a 15-yard touchdown that knotted the score 6-6 early in the second quarter.
Lowell responded immediately after halftime, getting another lengthy touchdown run, this one from fullback Marcos Cronander (five carries, 89 yards), who sped 70 yards for a score on the first play of the second half. The ensuing two-point conversion put the Cardinals up 14-6 with 11:42 to play in the third quarter.
The Cardinals added another touchdown 10 minutes later, with Navarro (16 carries, 114 yards) providing the scoring on a 30-yard touchdown run. Mission hurt itself with two penalties for 30 yards on the drive, including being flagged on a seldom-seen call of kicking the ball downfield while attempting to down its own punt.
After another successful Lowell two-point conversion put the Cardinals up 22-6, Mission once again turned to its star back for offense. Winston’s two carries for 27 yards keyed a short Mission drive, which was finalized when fullback La Quan Dawes plowed in from a yard out for a score. Winston added a two-point conversion to bring Mission within 22-14.
The Bears had numerous chances to even up the score, but were undone by turnovers. The last of their five turnovers came with under a minute to play as Greg Tucker’s pass was intercepted by Cardinals cornerback J.R. Ayalde, who atoned for his fumble deep in Mission’s territory just minutes earlier.
"We say our offense keeps us in the game, but our defense wins it for us," Lowell coach Danny Chan said. "We had some guys making big plays for us on offense and, in the end, we shut them down when we had to."
Lowell 22, Mission 14