Defense has been the key to Loara High School's success this season, and it was no different Thursday night, as the Saxons clinched the Empire League championship with a 21-3 victory over Cypress in front of 1,500 in Anaheim's Handel Stadium.
Loara limited the Centurion offense to 92 total yards. The Saxons, who finished with an 9-0-1 record, spotted Cypress a first-quarter field goal--the only points they've allowed in the last four games--before roaring back with three unanswered touchdowns.
Trailing, 3-0, Loara's Brian Malavar blocked a Cypress punt and returned it 23 yards for a touchdown and Scott Wood added the extra point to make it 7-3. It was the 11th defensive touchdown Loara has recorded this season.
Cypress (3-4, 5-5) came back with its strongest drive of the night, moving to the Saxon 30-yard line before a Blaise Bryant fumble was recovered by Tony Ferrentino to stop the drive.
Although limited to only 71 yards on 13 plays and just five minutes' possession time in the first half, the Saxons led, 7-3, going into the locker room. But a different team emerged in the second half.
"We made some adjustments that needed to be made at halftime, and they worked," said Loara Coach Herb Hill, who recorded his 10th league title and first Empire league championship since 1980.
Early in the second half, Loara forced another Cypress punt, but the snap sailed over Lee Milton's head, and the Saxons recovered at the Centurion 23. From there, the Saxons drove for their second score, a one-yard Wood run.
On its final drive, Loara went 84 yards in 17 plays with Andy Janney going over from the one.
Wood passed for 120 yards on 8 of 15 attempts, and Janney had 59 yards on 13 carries to lead all Saxon rushers. Cypress' Bryant, who had 62 yards in the first half, finished with 71 yards on 18 carries.