For the second consecutive year, one of the best-funded high school sports facilities in the L.A. area lost power at a particularly inopportune time, leading a visiting coach to speculate about intentional blackouts aimed at affecting a key game.
Here's how the most recent incident unfolded on Friday: Two of the top teams in the L.A. area faced off in a key early season clash at Westlake (Calif.) Oaks Christian School. Through three quarters, the game between Oaks Christian and Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure School was following a thoroughly believable script, with Oaks Christian jumping out to an early lead only for St. Bonaventure to mount a rabid comeback, cutting the Oaks Christian lead to 27-24 and forcing the Lions into a late punt.
St. Bonaventure had every reason to believe that it would get the ball back in decent field position with a chance to win the game. Instead, as the Oaks Christian punter put his boot to the ball, every light in the stadium went out, making it impossible for the Seraphs' designated returner to see the ball, or anything else.
As a result, the ball rolled and rolled and was eventually downed at the 1-yard line. According to the Los Angeles Times, a 22-minute delay ensued, after which the lights came back on, just in time for St. Bonaventure to need a 99-yard drive to escape with a win.
Instead, the Seraphs were immediately called for a holding penalty in the end zone, a play you can see directly below, which was good for a safety and a 29-24 Oaks Christian lead and, minutes later, the Lions were celebrating a 36-24 win that was far closer -- and more controversial -- than the score indicated.
"It might have been an accident, but someone at Oaks Christian shut the lights out," St. Bonaventure coach Todd Therrien told the Times. "[Oaks Christian football coach] Bill Redell has a hundred rabbits' feet in his pocket when he plays St. Bonaventure."
Unsurprisingly, Redell (pictured above) defended his team's victory, saying that the light outage was an unfortunate coincidence. Assuming it was, that marks the second time in two years that Oaks Christian's stadium lost power at an inopportune time; the Times reported that the stadium also lost all lighting during a soccer game in 2010.
"I don't blame the guy for being upset," Redell told the Times. "If the shoe was on the other side, I'd be too. It hurt them because they had the momentum."
Momentum or not, the punt stood, as did the safety and resulting touchdown, helping Oaks Christian escape with a second win of the season … albeit one played amidst plenty of controversy.
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- Oaks Christian