What started out sloppy turned lopsided Thursday night as Pacifica High School beat Villa Park, 33-7, in front of 1,100 at Bolsa Grande High School.
There were four turnovers in the first quarter, three by Pacifica. The futility spilled over into the second quarter when Pacifica running back Ray Willis fumbled the ball at the Villa Park 47-yard line. Villa Park returned the favor when quarterback Tom Kelly threw an interception at the Pacifica 45.
The first quarter and half resembled a bad rumba. One, two, three, punt! One two, three, fumble . . .
But by the second half, Pacifica's offense calmed down and cashed in on a Villa Park offense that had not calmed down. Pacifica scored 23 points in the second half.
It took a while for Pacifica to get on level footing. It was midway through the second quarter when the Mariners finally mounted a serious drive. Starting on the Pacifica 30, quarterback Brent Johnson completed a 24-yard pass to Danny Blake for a first down. Two running plays produced six yards, and on third down Willis swept around the right side for 13 yards and a first down. The drive stalled on the Villa Park 22, but sophomore Derek Mahoney salvaged it by kicking a 39-yard field goal.
Less than a minute later, Kelly, who suffered through a dismal game, was intercepted by Blake on the Pacifica 45.
It looked like much of the same frustration for Pacifica when a 22-yard pass play was nullified by a clipping call. But Willis righted things with a 35-yard run. Villa Park was penalized an additional 15 yards on the play for unsportsmanlike conduct and suddenly Pacifica was on the Villa Park 25.
On the next play, Johnson lofted a pass toward the right side of the end zone that Blake ran under for the game's first touchdown, and Pacifica led, 10-0, at halftime.
The Mariners didn't exactly finish the job right away in the second half. They fumbled the kickoff. Villa Park's Lance Rabun recovered the ball on the Pacifica 12.
In two plays the Spartans were on the four-yard line. A Herculean effort by running back Tony Inga, who was hit twice behind the line of scrimmage, was good for a first down and the ball was at the two. Three plays later, John Genova bulled his way over for Villa Park's only touchdown.
But then it all caved in for Villa Park. After a long drive, Johnson threw to Cory Mathis to give Pacifica a 20-yard touchdown that was practically a replica of his second quarter throw.
Villa Park fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and Johnson soon completed another lightly-lofted touchdown pass, this one to Ken Greene.
After not playing much last season, Johnson was a big question mark for Pacifica Coach Bill Craven. And although he performed well (completing 7 of 9 passes, for 140 yards) he apparently didn't answer all of Craven's questions.
"This was basically his first varsity football game," Craven said. "He did some things very well. But in the same way he lofted those touchdown passes, he also lofted a couple balls that got picked off. I wasn't happy with that. . . . But I should say I'm a little happier about our quarterback situation."