Valencia High School will be trying to end a semifinal jinx when the Tigers meet Sunny Hills at 7:30 tonight in the semifinals of the Central Conference playoffs in Fullerton District Stadium.
Valencia has been eliminated in the semifinals three of the past four years, including the 1983 season when Sunny Hills defeated the Tigers, 6-0. Valencia has never advanced to a championship football game since the school opened in 1933.
Sunny Hills won the Central Conference championship in 1983 and has qualified for the playoffs five times in seven years.
The game figures to be a defensive struggle. Valencia (10-1-1) has allowed an average of 6.6 points a game this season and has recorded four shutouts. Sunny Hills (11-1) has allowed an average of 9.4 points a game and has also recorded four shutouts.
Both have played Troy with Sunny Hills earning a 20-19 victory and Valencia losing to the Warriors, 8-7. Troy Coach John Turek predicted a close game.
"It's going to come down to whichever team makes the fewest mistakes," Turek said. "Both teams have excellent defenses and a big-play guy on offense."
Tim Imperiali, a three-year starter, is the Lancers' most versatile player. Imperiali rushed for 134 yards and caught 6 passes for 68 yards in the Lancers' opening-round victory over La Quinta. Last week, he blocked a punt that led to a touchdown in a 16-14 upset over Saddleback.
Valencia tailback Dorian Estes averaged 117 yards rushing a game during the regular season and scored 11 touchdowns. He also anchors a defensive secondary that has intercepted 28 passes, four off the county record of 32 set by Pacifica in 1978.
"The teams are a lot alike," said Mike Marrujo, Valencia coach. "We're both passing a little more than in the past. I think (Sunny Hills') David Chisum has developed into an outstanding quarterback.
"Imperiali is the key to their offense. Besides being a very good runner, they put him in motion and he catches a lot of passes. We're going to try and contain him to a degree."
Both teams also have excellent defensive linemen. Tackles Scott and Brian Edmonds anchor the Sunny Hills line. Shawn Racobs, the Defensive Player of the Year in the Orange League, is a three-year starter for Valencia.
"Sunny Hills is a little bigger than we are, but it won't be a major factor," Marrujo said. "We match up well."
VALENCIA vs. SUNNY HILLS Tonight at Fullerton District Stadium, 7:30
VALENCIA TIGERS Orange League (10-1-1)
Westminster Tied, 14-14 Sonora Won, 56-0 El Dorado Won, 41-10 Troy Lost, 8-7 Bolsa Grande Won, 33-10 Magnolia Won, 31-0 Western Won, 28-0 Brea-Olinda Won, 16-3 Anaheim Won, 17-0 Savanna Won, 39-8 Los Angeles Won, 29-12 Artesia Won, 17-14
SUNNY HILLS LANCERS Freeway League (11-1)
Rowland Won, 20-7 Don Lugo Won, 38-7 Cypress Won, 17-7 Canyon Won, 2-0 Brea-Olinda Won, 14-7 Sonora Won, 31-0 Buena Park Win, 38-0 Troy Win, 20-19 La Habra Lost, 17-7 Fullerton Won, 27-0 La Quinta Won, 51-35 Saddleback Won, 16-14