It has been 20 years since Anaheim High School played in a championship football game, but the Colonists will be in the Central Conference title game after a stunning 21-7 win over Saddleback Saturday night in front of 4,500 fans in Anaheim's Glover Stadium.
The Colonists (10-2-1) dominated Saddleback (7-5-1) in every phase of the game to set up a rematch with Orange League rival Valencia on Friday night at a site to be determined.
Saddleback had beaten Anaheim, 21-0, six weeks ago.
Robert Aldaz, Anaheim's lightly regarded quarterback, played the game of his life against Saddleback, passing for 150 yards and a touchdown and then scoring on a 2-yard run in the fourth quarter that wrapped up the win.
The Colonists' swarming defense, led by linebackers Sunny Silverman and Jim Sanchez, shut out Saddleback until the final six minutes of play. Anaheim intercepted three passes and recovered a fumble in the one-sided win.
"They don't come any better than this," said Ted Mullen, Anaheim coach. "It was 20 years ago that Anaheim won a title and 10 years ago that I won my first one at Villa Park, so this is sort of an anniversary for all of us."
Mullen will be making his sixth appearance in a championship game. He led two teams at Villa Park into the finals and three more at Foothill. He won Southern Conference titles in 1977 and 1981 at Villa Park and Foothill.
Mullen will be trying to become only the second coach in Southern Section history to win championships at three different schools. Dick Hill won titles at Downey (1956), Santa Ana Valley (1974) and Santa Ana (1985).
"They're all sweet," Mullen said, "but getting there (to the championship game) this year is quite an accomplishment. You dream sometimes . . ."
Saddleback's performance could be summed up in one word: letdown. Only a week ago, the Roadrunners had scored the upset of the season, defeating top-seeded Bolsa Grande, 36-33. Quarterback Sean Therien had passed for 219 yards and 3 touchdowns in that win.
But Therien had thrown for only seven yards and had two interceptions late in the first half when he was hit by Silverman on a rollout play and suffered a concussion. Therien didn't return until there was 7:47 remaining to play and, by then, the Roadrunners trailed, 21-0.
"The doctor wouldn't clear him to play," Saddleback Coach Jerry Witte said. "I would have liked to have had him. But I don't want to take away anything from Anaheim. They played a great ballgame and deserved to win."
Witte said he didn't fear an emotional letdown after the win over Bolsa Grande last week, but added that his team was "pretty banged up physically" following the big win.
From the outset, the Roadrunners were no match for Anaheim. The Colonists turned two turnovers into an Aldaz field goal and a safety for a 5-0 lead in the first half, and then poured it on in the second half.
Aldaz teamed with Craig Smith on a 55-yard touchdown play and then threw a two-point conversion pass to Gerald Holloway for a 13-0 lead on the Colonists' opening possession of the half.
Aldaz scored his team's second touchdown on a nifty two-yard run that was set up perfectly after a fake to tailback Joaquin Garcia. Aldaz then threw another two-point conversion pass to Holloway to cap the big night.
Garcia rushed for 101 yards in 27 carries to boost his season total to 1,563 yards. Juan Valle, Saddleback fullback, led all rushers with 111 yards in 12 carries.