May 28, 2024

Madden Iamaleava threw four touchdowns — the last a 16-yard strike to Jordan Ross with 9:08 left in the fourth quarter — to lift Warren past crosstown rival Downey 28-21 before a sellout crowd of 18,815 Friday night in the first high school football game ever at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood.

Iamaleava, a junior, watched his older brother Nico (now a back-up quarterback at the University of Tennessee) lead the Bears (6-2, 3-0) to neighborhood bragging rights and this year it was his turn to play the role of hero in a battle between schools separated by a little over a mile.

“Without Madden we don’t roll like we do, Warren coach Kevin Pearson said. “The way his brother coached him the last two years was terrific. I give Nico more credit than me. I’m extremely proud of them both, they have a great relationship.”

Ross caught three touchdown passes for Warren, which took control of the Gateway League race.

“It was pretty loud—but this game is loud every year, this time it was just on a bigger stage,” Warren safety Jordan Jones said. “This is the highlight of my senior year for sure.”

Momentum swung with every score and Pearson said he struggled to keep his team focused on the task at hand: “It’s not where you play, it’s how you play. That was the message I was trying to get across to the players.”

It was the 66th meeting in a rivalry that began in 1958. Warren leads the series 37-29 and has won six straight since 2018. Before that, the Vikings won seven of eight dating back to 2010.

“The LA Bowl did a great job putting this together and the atmosphere was amazing,” Downey Coach Jack Williams said. “I feel like [Rams head coach] Sean McVay for a second. Our kids battled and left it all on the field, we just came up a little short.”

“Last year we lost this game and won a ring so hopefully we can do the same thing,” added Williams, whose team lost 49-22 at Warren last fall but went on to win the CIF Southern Section Division 4 championship.

Downey drive 89 yards in eight plays on the game’s opening possession, scoring on a one-yard run by Victor Morales. Ross caught his first touchdown pass from eight yards out to tie it 7-7 with 8:03 left in the second quarter.

The Vikings (6-2, 2-1) regained the lead on a 25-yard interception return by Anthony Francis, but Ross caught a 14-yard touchdown pass to pull the Bears even again at 14-14 with 1:18 left int he first half.

Jace Brown’s five-yard touchdown catch put Warren ahead for the first time, 21-14, with 4:37 left in the third quarter. Downey tied it on a quarterback keeper from Oscar Rios on fourth-and-goal at the 4-yard line late in the third quarter.

“This was the experience of a lifetime — something I’ll remember forever,” Rios said. “I’ve never played before 19,000 people before. I felt the crowd during warmups.

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