BY STEVE FRYER
STAFF WRITER OC REGISTER
ANAHEIM ♦ Valencia is the Empire League favorite and played like it Thursday.
The Tigers did everything well in a 37-7 win over Kennedy in the league opener for both at Western High.Valencia (5-1 overall) made no turnovers, committed only two penalties, ran the ball effectively and held Kennedy running back T.J. Williams well below his usual output.
Tigers junior running back Darren Sandoval rushed for 100 yards and two touchdowns. Senior quarterback Patrick Godoy passed for a touchdown and ran for another. Valencia’s defense contributed to the scoring with a safety. Valencia coach Mike Marrujo liked what he saw. “We got physical, particularly on defense,” he said. “We kept (Williams) from breaking a lot of long runs. We kept pounding away on offense.” Of course, a coach in his 34th season, as Marrujo is with the Tigers, will see room for improvement in a 30-point win.
“Some of our blocking has to get more precise,” he said. “But we’re improving on that. We talk about preventing the big play, making no mental errors and no turnovers and we were good there.” Williams, who has missed a couple of games because of a toe injury, ran for 63 yards on 18 carries. He had been averaging 206 yards a game.
Sandoval carried 19 times. The Tigers played without running back Will Van Dam, their leading rusher going into this week, who was out with an ankle sprain.
Valencia’s Jacob Briggs intercepted a pass on Kennedy’s opening possession to give the Tigers the ball at the Kennedy 26-yard line. Five plays later, including a 16-yard run by quarterback Patrick Godoy, Darren Sandoval scored on a 2-yard run for a 7-0 Valencia lead.
The Tigers added two points on a safety when Kennedy quarterback Adrian Quezada was flagged for intentional grounding in the Fighting Irish end zone. Valencia extended the lead to 16-0 in the final seconds of the first quarter on a 17-yard touchdown run by sophomore Jahquon Speed. Joey Ortega returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown for Kennedy (3-3). Sandoval’s second touchdown, this one on a 1-yard dive, with 2:06 to go in the second quarter pushed the Tigers’ lead to 23-7.
In the third quarter, Jake Watkins turned a short pass from Godoy into a 34-yard touchdown play. The Tigers concluded the scoring when backup running back Tommy Bui scored on a 1-yard run with three minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Valencia finished second in the Empire League last season. Valencia plays Western at Western in an Empire League game Oct. 18. Kennedy plays Pacifica at Bolsa Grande High next Friday.