As Tulare Union High and Serra-San Mateo congregated near midfield for the customary postgame handshakes, Tribe running back Kazmeir Allen received multiple compliments from opposing players.
One Serra player even told Allen “You’re the fastest player I’ve ever seen on the football field.”
The kind words and strong individual performance from Allen, however, failed to translate into a Tulare win.
Allen rushed for 347 yards and two touchdowns to break the nation’s single-season record with 72 touchdowns.
But whenever Allen wasn’t on the field, Serra did pretty much as it pleased while on offense and scored touchdowns on all but two of its drives to crush Tulare 76-43 in the CIF State Division 2-AA Regional Finals on Friday before a large home crowd at Mathias Stadium.
“It ended us playing,” Allen said. “ But hey, we accomplished what we wanted to accomplish, which was winning Valley.”
Tulare (13-1) falls shy of playing for a state championship, but still finished undefeated against teams in the Central Section and captured its first section title since 2008.
Serra (12-2), meanwhile, has gotten used to ruining dream seasons in the Valley.
A year ago, Serra went to Tom Flores Stadium and ended Sanger’s undefeated run with a 49-36 win in the 2-A Regional Final.
The Padres, who could have as many as four players sign with a Division I football program in the coming months, amassed 642 total yards Friday as its offensive linemen often created big holes and regularly blocked not just Tulare’s defensive linemen but Tribe linebackers, too.
Padres running back Isiah Kendrick busted loose for 252 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries.
Tulare was hanging with Serra early on.
Allen, who late last month made an oral commitment to UCLA and new coach Chip Kelly, broke loose for a 40-yard run that set up a 1-yard touchdown plunge by quarterback Nathan Lamb to put Tulare on top 7-0.
Then after Serra answered back with a touchdown on its first drive to tie the game, Allen broke loose for a 91-yard touchdown run.
Then after Serra tied the game once again with its own touchdown, Allen corralled a kickoff from the ground near the end zone and nearly scored again with an 80-yard return before he was tackled by the kicker.
That surprise tackle proved to be perhaps the play of the game.
Because Tulare went on to fumble while in the red zone on the handoff to Allen.
And Serra answered with another touchdown.
Allen would eventually find the end zone, breaking the national record with his 72nd touchdown on an 80-yard run while going untouched down the Serra sideline with 3:44 left in the first half.
But by halftime, Serra led 41-22.
And with the deficit too big to continue to run the ball, Allen did little in the second half.
After three quarters, the Padres owned a 69-36 advantage.
Serra even attempted and recovered an onside kick with a 33-point lead, drawing a loud round of boos from the home fans.
All that did was quicken the end of Tulare’s season as Serra eventually scored early in the fourth and activated a running clock mercy rule that goes into affect after a 35-point lead in the fourth.
It was an odd ending for what had been an amazing run for the Tribe.
But with Tulare viewing the regional final much like extra credit after earning a perfect score on an exam, Tribe players and coaches weren’t too heartbroken afterward.
“The extra credit wasn’t real good,” Bennett said. “They had a really good team. They out physical-ed us. We couldn’t stop them.”
Excited that he still had more football to play at the college level, Allen wasn’t too emotional that his high school career had finally ended.
But even his teammates weren’t too upset their season had ended.
Tulare’s run simply had been filled with so many bright moments to dwell on the dull ending.
“It was a great year,” Allen said. “We all know that.”