By CARLOS ARIAS
The Orange County Register
PLACENTIA - Valencia coach Mike Marrujo said one of the hardest things to do is beat a team twice in one season. The Tigers' lone loss this season was a 35-28 dogfight against Kennedy on Oct. 21. Valencia bounced back from that loss and upset Orange Lutheran two weeks later. The Tigers' confidence has been soaring ever since, and they continued to ride that momentum to a 19-13 victory over Kennedy in the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division VI football playoffs on Friday night at Valencia High.
"I've been in this situation before," Marrujo said, "and beating somebody twice in one season is extremely hard. I'm glad we were in the position we were in." The Tigers (12-1) are in the finals for the first time since winning back-to-back titles in 1991 and '92. Valencia faces the winner of tonight's Newport Harbor-Tustin game. The Tigers had a 9-6 lead at the half and took a 19-6 lead early in the fourth quarter after D.J. Russell's 25-yard field goal, but Kennedy made things interesting down the stretch.
The Fighting Irish (11-2) got great field position after Valencia's punter shanked a punt to give Kennedy the ball at Valencia's 46-yard line. Kennedy quarterback Kyle Olson completed 5 of 6 passes on the drive, including a 4-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Smart to cut the lead to 19-13 with 5:09 left. Kennedy's defense forced a three-and-out, and it looked as if the Fighting Irish had the momentum and plenty of time left to make a run. Valencia's punt was about to roll dead at its 43, but Smart tried to pick it up and run. He couldn't get a handle on the ball and fumbled it. Valencia's Joe Castillo recovered with 3:26 left.
Kennedy had one more chance when it took over at its 21 with 1:27 remaining, but Valencia's defense stopped the Fighting Irish on fourth down at midfield. Alex Garcia(20 carries, 100 yards) scored on a 9-yard run early in the second quarter to give the Tigers a 7-0 advantage. Olson hooked up with Robert Archuleta for a 30-yard scoring pass, but Kennedy missed the extra-point attempt and trailed, 7-6.
The Tigers added two more points when Valencia sophomore defensive tackle Zach Johnson sacked Olson in the end zone late in the first half for a safety. Valencia's Ray Magee caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Luis Cruz on the Tigers' opening possession of the second half. Magee also had two interceptions. Valencia's star running back, Wes Fletcher, who had 77 yards on 11 carries in the first half, left the game late in the second quarter because of a concussion. Marrujo said Fletcher is expected to play in the finals.
Kennedy 0 6 0 7 - 13
Valencia 0 9 7 3 - 19
Val - Garcia 9 run (Russell kick)
Ken - Archuleta 30 pass from Olson (kick failed)
Val - Safety, Olson tackled in end zone by Johnson
Val - Magee 24 pass from Cruz (Russell kick)
Val - FG Russell 25
Ken - Smart 4 pass from Olson (Guardado kick)
Rushing- Ken, Smart 4-13, Olson 2-6; Val, Garcia 20-100, Fletcher 11-77.
Passing- Ken, Olson 20-34-2-207; Val, Cruz 6-9-0-76.
Receiving- Ken, Archuleta 6-76, Salazar 4-66; Val, Cormier 3-41, Magee 2-29.