By DAN ALBANO OCRegister
PLACENTIA - Valencia showed in the second half Thursday why it is undefeated and a contender in the Southwest Division. The Tigers erupted for 28 consecutive points and forced four turnovers to clinch the Empire League title outright with a 35-14 victory against visiting Pacifica. Valencia (10-0, 5-0) matched its best start since its undefeated season of 1991 and might have sealed the No. 4 seed in the Southwest Division. “I’m very optimistic that we can do pretty well,” Valencia coach Mike Marrujo said of the playoffs. “We have a good team. We have good skill guys. We have a very good defense. I’m hopeful we can play well.”
Valencia’s defense certainly played well in the second half to help the Tigers erase a 14-7 deficit. It was the first time Valencia trailed at halftime. Valencia intercepted three passes and returned a fumble for a touchdown, all after the Tigers tied the score early in the second half on a 50-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tyler Switzerto Chachmoni Ben-Yisrael. Sam Lydic sparked the defensive flurry by intercepting a pass deflected by Jacob Briggs at the Pacifica 44 with 5:45 left in the third. Three plays later, Darren Sandoval scored on a 17-yard touchdown run as the Tigers took their first lead, 21-14.
Sandoval finished with 93 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. Later in third, Briggs returned a fumble forced by defensive lineman Tofi Meleah about 18 yards for a touchdown and a 28-14 lead with 2:15 left in the third. Sandoval then capped an 80-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run with 6:57 left in the fourth. The drive chewed up nearly six minutes. Justin McHale and Alec Sweet also had interceptions for Valencia in the second half. Sweet also added a sack and forced fumble in the first that Meleah recovered. “We were motivated,” said Briggs, who also caught a 3-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal early in the second period. “We’ve never been down before. At halftime, we just needed to pick up our heads.
We just knew we had to get the job done, execute our assignment. ... I’m glad we got that victory.” Pacifica (6-4, 2-3) opened a 14-0 lead in the first half on a 2-yard touchdown run by quarterback Nick Garciaand a 74-yard TD strike from Garcia to Aundre Purnell on a slant. The Mariners could land one of the three at-large berths in the Southwest. "They're a good team," Briggs said of the Mariners.
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