REDDING, Calif. - For the first time in program history, University Prep football is section champions.
The Panthers beat Pierce 27-7 in the NSCIF Division IV championship game. Uprep remains unbeaten with a perfect 13-0 record.
"These kids answered the bell every opportunity we had," Uprep Head Coach Dustin Fortenberry said. "It's much more than football. It's about life. It's about showing up. It's about doing the little things right. We love these kids and we love this school so much. We're so proud of these kids."
Pierce opened up the scoring late in the first quarter with a 12-yard run from Kaden Davis. The Bears took a 7-0 lead.
Uprep answered with a touchdown of its own. The Panthers missed the extra point and trailed 7-6 at the half.
University Prep came alive in the second half with a high-powered offense and stout defense.
In the third quarter, Quarterback Payton Henderson aired it out 50 yards to Tight End Scott Jones. He stayed in bounds and tiptoed into the endzone for the score. Uprep lead 12-7.
On the next Pierce drive, the Panthers clawed down Daniel Gonzalez in his own endzone for a safety.
University Prep continued to dominate on both sides of the ball. Running back Carter Abel hurdled a defender. His monster play set up a one-yard touchdown from QB Payton Henderson.
Late in the fourth, Carter Abel intercepted Pierce Quarterback Bryce Murphy. That was the dagger, setting up another Uprep touchdown. All in all, the Panthers scored 21 unanswered second half points.
With the win, the Panthers secure an automatic state playoff bid. They'll learn who, when and where they play early next week.
In addition to Uprep, Fall River cruised by Modoc 37-6 to earn a section title in Division V.
Chico and Foothill battle for the Division II section title Saturday. Paradise also plays Saturday, competing against Sutter for the Division III title. Both games kickoff at 7pm.