By Tim Meehan, The Press Enterprise
PALM DESERT — DeChon Burns has coached football at the highest levels, including collegiate stints at Florida and USC and in the NFL with the Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers.
He knows special when he sees it.
This year’s Linfield Lions are something special. Burns just hopes they can keep the magic going for at least one more week.
The Lions are one step away from their second CIF championship in school history following a 57-13 win over host Xavier Prep in Friday’s Division 12 semifinals.
“The guys come in and play as a unit and understand what they’re being asked to do and the way they’re being asked to do it,” Linfield head coach DeChon Burns said. “Now it’s a matter of taking this. We still have something on the table next week. The stuff we do in the summer and all season, we work for this point.”
The Lions (12-1) will take on Artesia in the championship either Friday or Saturday at Murrieta Mesa.
Linfield came out aggressive on both sides of the ball, jumping out to a 34-0 lead until Xavier Prep (7-6) scored right before halftime. The Lions scored on their first three possessions of the game and on five of their first six.
Kenric Jameison scored on a pair of long runs (63, 59), Crispin Wong scored on a 3-yard run, Justin Manqueros scored on a 17-yard run and wide receiver Travion Brown caught a one-handed touchdown from Kaleb Maresh from 9 yards out.
Before the hosts could catch their breath, they were down 34-0.
“We just focused on coming out and punishing them right away,” said Jameison, who rushed 13 times for 279 yards and scored his 25th and 26th touchdowns of the season. “The line was blowing it up. I really didn’t have to do much. They just opened up wide holes and I just made a couple guys miss here and there. That’s all I can really ask for as a back.”
Meanwhile, the Linfield defense set the tone early. The Saints had eight first-half drives. Four of them resulted in three-and-outs, two were turnovers on lost fumbles, one was a long touchdown and the final one ended the half in a sack.
“We were just planning on the pass and keeping the quarterback in the pocket because we knew he wasn’t mobile,” said Manqueros, who recovered a fumble and caused another that Michael Harkins recovered, both of which resulted in touchdowns. “We had the attitude that we were going to get on them early. We just had to come out with a different attitude and be more aggressive.”
Maresh hooked up with Brown twice more in the second half among his four touchdown passes, the final one one a short dump off pass to Wong, who turned it into a 38-yard score early in the fourth quarter.
Brown finished with four catches for 101 yards while also contributing mightily on defense with two sacks (one a strip sack), six tackles, two hurries and a tackle for loss.
“We came out with a chip on our shoulder and came out aggressively,” said Brown, the Washington State-bound wideout. “We just had to execute our plays and soon as we started executing, we kept getting down the field and scoring.”
In addition to Brown’s work on defense, Marshall Wiese contributed three sacks and Jake Martinez notched a sack and a pair of tackles for loss. Linfield’s special teams even came up with a huge play when Jason Locke blocked a punt in the end zone for a third-quarter safety.
Since a loss a month ago to Aquinas, the Lions are beating teams by an average of more than 50 points.
Getting to the championship is a great accomplishment, but Burns and his staff know there’s still work to do.
“It’s not the pinnacle, it’s just what’s next,” Burns said. “Our goal is keep the lights on.”