Sondheimer: Garfield ready for a mud bowl vs. Gardena after playoff win over San Pedro

Time is running out for Garfield’s football field that has more exposed dirt than green grass. It’s scheduled to be replaced by an all-weather turf field. Construction is supposed to begin next month. With rain forecast for next week, a football game on Friday night in the City Section Open Division semifinals against Gardena could produce the greatest mud game since . . .1982 Jets-Dolphins.

“It will be historic,” coach Lorenzo Hernandez said.

It was three yards and a real cloud of dust at times in Garfield’s 38-21 win over San Pedro on Thursday night in an Open Division quarterfinal. Damian Cornejo, who missed the last three games because of a contusion on his leg, rushed for 233 yards in 30 carries and scored three touchdowns.

He can’t wait to face Gardena next week in the mud. Well, sort of. Last season, the Bulldogs played Golden Valley in a state playoff game, and it was so muddy that Cornejo threw out his cleats after the game.

“This is way worse,” Cornejo said.

Garfield and San Pedro were tied 14-14 at halftime. The Bulldogs hurt themselves with two lost fumbles. And just when they looked like they were ready to pull away in the second half, Dylan Rubino of San Pedro came up with an interception and a touchdown to tie the score at 21-21.

Damian Cabrera didn’t take long to make up for the turnover. The Garfield quarterback connected with Paul Ramos for a 30-yard touchdown pass just before the third quarter ended to give the Bulldogs a 28-21 lead.

Hernandez had seen enough. The order was made to start relying on Garfield’s line and give the ball to Cornejo. He started picking up yards out of the wildcat formation with direct snaps.

Garfield got big plays from a number of players. Dominic Vasquez contributed his fifth interception of the season, caught a 24-yard touchdown pass and had a tackle for a loss. Jayden Barnes made a critical 25-yard gain to set up a Cornejo touchdown. Joshua Estrada had a sack on fourth down to frustrate the Pirates.

This was Garfield’s first game since beating Roosevelt in the East L.A. Classic. The truth is the Bulldogs’ focus is on getting back to the Open Division championship game even though alumni care about wins against Roosevelt. That’s why Cornejo was held out of the game so he’d be healthy for the playoffs.

“For sure, this was more important to save my body,” Cornejo said.

The Open Division is going just as the seedings predicted. Top-seeded Birmingham routed Narbonne 57-19 and will host No. 4 Carson, which defeated Granada Hills 34-12. No. 2 Garfield gets No. 3 Gardena, a 14-10 winner over Palisades.

In Division I, the big news is the return to prominence of Crenshaw, which advanced to the semifinals with a 49-24 win over Venice. In Division II, Fairfax received four touchdown passes from Ivan Levant to stun top-seeded Arleta 35-17. Angelou improved to 12-0 by defeating Eagle Rock 42-41. Eagle Rock went for the win but a two-point conversion attempt failed. San Fernando defeated Roosevelt 28-26.