Column: Meet Birmingham's Three Amigos: Arlis Boardingham, Delamonte Barnes, Carlos Rivera

Birmingham's four-year football starters Arlis Boardingham (left), Delamonte Barnes and Carlos Rivera.
Birmingham's four-year football starters are Arlis Boardingham, left, Delamonte Barnes and Carlos Rivera. (Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

There was a little more than two minutes left in the Southern California 3-A regional championship football game. Lake Balboa Birmingham High had a fourth and two from its own 28-yard line while clinging to a 42-35 lead over San Diego Patrick Henry. Coach Jim Rose told his offensive coordinator to go for it.

Rose knows he has one big advantage — Arlis Boardingham, Delamonte Barnes and Carlos Rivera are four-year starters and ready to take on the assignment of getting the first down.

"We're going to win or lose with them," Rose said.

Boardingham took the snap out of shotgun formation, handed the ball to Barnes, who ran toward the right side behind Rivera to pick up the first down. Game over. Birmingham advances to the state championship bowl game.

The trio will play their final game together Saturday night at Oakland McClymonds in the 3-A championship game. They've led Birmingham (9-5) to two City Section Open Division championships while never losing a game to a City Section opponent over four seasons when you count a forfeit win over Harbor City Narbonne in 2018.

"Arlis is the nicest of the bunch," Rose said. "Monte is a good kid but a little crazy. Carlos is more of a sneaky mad guy."

Boardingham, 6 feet 5 and 230 pounds, is a receiver, linebacker, punter and kickoff returner. Barnes, 5-8 and 205 pounds, is a running back and relentless linebacker who rushed for 127 yards against Patrick Henry. Rivera, 6-3 and 287 pounds, is a two-way lineman who seemingly every coach asks after playing against him, "Who is No. 56?"

They've played on the same team for six years when you include youth football. They figure to take home awards for City player of the year, defensive player of the year and lineman of the year. They've been that good.

Boardingham is heavily recruited by colleges, including USC and Texas. Barnes is trying to overcome questions about his size, though he keeps making tackle after tackle, and Rivera is drawing increasing attention for his play in the trenches after breaking his collarbone and missing the spring season.

Together, they have created a lasting memory for Birmingham fans that will be hard to top, especially if they can deliver a first state title in football.

Here comes Peyton

There's already signs Birmingham is developing its next top football player, and his name is Peyton Waters. He played basketball as a freshman, then joined the football team for his sophomore year last summer, and what a season he's having. He has caught touchdown passes in his last three games, stripped the ball for a fumble recovery in the City Section final against San Pedro and added an interception and touchdown reception last week against Patrick Henry.

"In a couple of years, he's going to be a special kid," Rose said.

Peyton Waters poses for a photo.
Peyton Waters is Birmingham's 6-foot, 145-pound sophomore receiver/cornerback. (Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Waters, 16, said he hadn't played football since he was 11. His father, Jeff, played at Carson and Iowa State but never pushed him to play football. At 6 feet, 145 pounds, he has the kind of natural skills that indicate he has the instincts and talent to be really good.

"I think he's a great talent and has a chance to take over," Boardingham said.

One goal for the future is to gain weight and strength.

"He's got a skinny basketball frame on him," Rose said. "We need to thicken him up. His parents got to feed him. Peyton needs Thanksgiving every week."

Waters said his mother has been saying the same thing about eating more.

"My mom is always asking," he said. "If I want to get to where I want to go, I better start listening."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.