By DAN ALBANO
GARDEN GROVE Cody Johnson scored three touchdowns and made a onehanded interception to help Pacifica defeat Valencia, 27-7, for a muchneeded Empire League victory Thursday at Bolsa Grande High. Pacifica (5-2, 1-2) earned its first league victory after dropping consecutive games to Tustin and Kennedy. "We needed this one," said Pacifica´s Joel Willis, who caught a key fourthquarter touchdown. Valencia fell to 3-4, 0-3.
The matchup between two ranked teams in the Southwest Division was close going into the fourth quarter. Fifth-ranked Pacifica led No. 10 Valencia, 13-7. But about 2 1/2 minutes into the fourth, Willis made a game-changing play. The Washington-commit grabbed away a near-interception by Travis Hawley for a leaping 27-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Mario Nava. In the first quarter, Hawley out-jumped Willis for an interception. "He´s a college player," Valencia coach Mike Marrujo said of Willis.
"Willis´ fellow receiver, Trent Langham, helped set up the score with a 12-yard reception to the Valencia 19 on fourth-and-9. After sacks by Michael Estrada and Langham quickly ended Valencia´s ensuing possession, Pacifica took advantage of a short field. Johnson took a screen pass and scored from 25 yards as the Mariners opened a 27-7 lead with 5:37 left.
Johnson scored on a 43-yard screen pass with 5:24 left in the second quarter to help Pacifica take a 13-0 lead at halftime. The senior made a one-handed interception at his 5 to end Valencia´s first possession of the second half. Nava competed 16 of 20 passes for 189 yards and three touchdowns.