One minute and eight seconds.
That is all it took to put the Peninsula football team on the fast track to its first CIF Southern Section final since 1997.
Peninsula scored three touchdowns in a 1:08 span in the second quarter Friday night at South Torrance to seize control of a 28-7 victory over Hemet to the Division 11 final, just three years after the Panthers forfeited their final three games due to lack of healthy players.
“We’ve dreamed about this day for so long — it’s the greatest feeling in the world,” Peninsula’s Jason Augello said.
Peninsula danced. Peninsula chanted. And Peninsula celebrated a trip to a CIF final, where Peninsula (9-4) will play Western — a 35-34 winner over Beaumont — next Saturday at Western High.
The moment held special significance for a trio of four-year varsity players who were on the 2015 team that did not complete its season — Augello, Zackary Denney and Ethan Han.
“We’ve been through it all,” said Han, who rushed for 173 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. “Freshman year, our season got canceled on us. But we trusted the coaches. We trusted the program.
“There’s literally nothing like this — this is the best moment of my life.”
Denney said the program has come full circle.
“To go from not even completing the season in our freshman year to now going to the championship in our senior year, it’s such a great feeling,” Denney said. “Playoff football is like no other.”
Third-year Peninsula coach David Young, who resurrected the program following the 2015 season, said he sent a pointed email to his players in March.
After finishing third in the rugged Bay League, Peninsula made the most of its first postseason berth since 2005, rattling off wins over Ontario Christian and Pomona.
“I told them we were going to play for a championship this season in that email, and they kind of laughed, but I was dead serious,” Young said. “I talked about making history and doing something that had not been done since before these kids were born.
“And we did it. I can’t say enough about these guys, especially the seniors in our program.”
Peninsula’s quick scoring burst left Hemet stunned.
It started with a 22-yard pass from Jack Haworth to John Skoblar. Then Luke Seymour and Sebastian Huizar had interception returns for touchdowns on successive possessions.
Sixty-eight seconds to glory.
“That was amazing — I’ve not seen anything like that,” Huizar said.Haworth’s touchdown pass opened the floodgates.
It was particularly impressive because Peninsula had lost quarterback Ethan Gretzinger to an anterior cruciate ligament injury in the quarterfinals.
“When Ethan went down last week, I knew I had to fill in — next man up,” said Haworth, making just his second start at quarterback this season.
Seymour picked off a Hemet pass and had a clear path to the end zone for a 14-yard interception return for a 14-0 lead, just 57 seconds after Haworth’s pass to Skoblar.
“He gave me the inside, so I cut in. The quarterback threw it, and the ball ended up in my hands,” Seymour said. “I was so excited, I couldn’t believe it.”
Then 19 seconds later, Huizar also came up with an interception and raced his way for 30 yards for a touchdown for a 21-0 lead at the 6:50 mark.
“I just read the quarterback’s eyes, kept my eyes on the ball and I was gone,” Huizar said. “It was amazing. Nothing like it.”
Hemet broke up the shutout on an 11-yard scoring run by quarterback Nicholas Thornburg midway through the third quarter, but Peninsula answered on the next play from scrimmage as Han broke a 59-yard scoring run.
“It was a great team win,” Haworth said. “Everybody contributed.”