SANTA ANA — The Century League has been among the most balanced and competitive in the county this season. So it was no surprise the championship did not draw to an easy conclusion Friday.
Santa Ana Valley was the only team that controlled its destiny, but Canyon defeated the Falcons, 28-19, in front of 1,000 at Santa Ana Stadium.
Comanche running back Troy Mills rushed for 114 yards--100 in the second half--and added a six-yard scoring reception. Komron Tarkeshian added 64 yards and two touchdowns.
Both scored in the pivotal third quarter, expanding Canyon's lead from 14-13 to 28-13. The only second-half score Santa Ana Valley managed was a 65-yard punt return by Kyle Marks.
The victory gave Canyon (6-3-1, 2-2-1) an automatic playoff berth as the third-place team in the league.
"Biggest win of the year, just huge," Canyon Coach Bob Hughes said. "Valley is a good, tough team, but our kids just kept fighting."
The Falcons (7-3, 3-2) got 95 yards and two touchdowns from Beau Wallace, 90 yards from Leafi Naea, and 108 yards passing from Ricky Chavez. But Santa Ana Valley saw its receivers drop numerous passes, were penalized often and had two players ejected after a brief third-quarter skirmish. Still, the Falcons finished tied for the league championship and recipients of its No. 1 playoff berth by virtue of its 21-20 victory last week over co-champion Villa park.
"This is two weeks now we haven't played well," Falcons' Coach Scott Orloff said. "Right now we're underachieving. I know we're better than we've showed."
Santa Ana Valley rid itself of one albatross last week when it secured its first playoff spot since 1978 by beating Villa Park. At stake Friday was a league championship the Falcons had not won since 1977.
"They were so nervous last week before Villa Park and played like it," Orloff said. "Tonight I hoped they would relax and cut down on the errors."
Canyon, coming off a three-game losing streak, had to win, Hughes said, to wrangle a postseason berth.
Santa Ana Valley stopped the rushing tandem of Kody Miller and Mills, but Canyon took a 7-0 lead with a 73-yard drive that featured 24- and 31-yard passes from Craig Scott to Justin Jackson and Miller.
Canyon scored its touchdown on a two-yard run by Tarkeshian.
The other Comanche score came on an interception by Jimmy Kim in the second quarter, who picked off an overthrown Chavez pass and raced 55 yards down the right sideline.
Santa Ana Valley capped an 80-yard, first-quarter drive with a 31-yard touchdown run by Wallace.