Imperial High football

Imperial High senior fullback Royce Freeman rushes through two St. Augustine High defenders during the CIF-San Diego Section Division II semifinal in San Diego on Wednesday.

SAN DIEGO — It was a rough night for the Imperial High football team at San Diego Mesa College here, as St. Augustine High beat the Tigers, 56-12, in their Wednesday night CIF-San Diego Section Division II semifinal game.

The Saints’ victory advanced them to the championship against Mission Bay High, to be played Monday at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium.

“We have to be honest with ourselves: that was a great football team,” Imperial coach Kerry Legarra said. “But we earned the right to be here, this is the best football team I’ve ever had the privilege of coaching.

“I just love this team to death, each and every one of them,” he said. “They gave us everything we asked.”

The Tigers’ lone bright spots of the night were senior running back Royce Freeman rushing for nearly 200 yards and senior quarterback Chris Carter’s touchdown runs of 52 and 6 yards.

Both scores came in the third quarter, as Imperial was outmatched in nearly every facet of the game by an exceedingly tough Saints squad.

“We ran into a buzz saw tonight,” offensive coordinator Brady Hoff said bluntly.

The bitter loss capped a sweet season for the Tigers, who finished with an 11-1 record, having gone 5-0 to win the Imperial Valley League.

Several hundred fans clad in red and white made the trip to the junior college to root on their favorite team, as they have throughout the season.

“I think we have the greatest fans in the Imperial Valley and San Diego County,” Legarra said. “They’ve followed us and supported us, even when things got rough.”

Players and coaches both were understandably emotional after the game, often struggling to find the right words to say.

“I just want to thank my teammates and coaches,” Carter said. “We’re like a family, and I just want to thank them for letting me be a part of this family.

“I wish the best to them in their futures,” he said.

Carter himself has had some college scouts take a look at him, as has fellow senior and offensive lineman Evan Pumphrey.

Senior wide receiver Dajon Staton may also have a future playing college ball, as might senior defenders Shaun de la Torre and Robert Colace.

It was a Tigers team that helped each other break CIF-SDS records in rushing, as well as school records in passing and receiving this year.

“This is the best season we ever had as a team,” Freeman said. “It’s the best team we’ve ever had and I’m just very proud.”

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