BREA — Dee Meza said it felt great to be back as a member of the Orange Lutheran football team after sitting out five weeks with an injured hand.
In Saturday night's Southern Section Division X second-round playoff game against Santa Barbara Bishop Diego, the Lancers were happy to have him back.
Meza, a junior running back-free safety who missed just about all of the Lancers' Olympic League season, rushed for 212 yards and three touchdowns to lead Orange Lutheran to a 35-6 victory at Brea Olinda High.
"Dee is a difference maker for us," Lancers Coach Jim Kunau said.
The big night for Meza, who also intercepted a pass in the end zone, enabled the Lancers (9-2-1) to advance to their fourth consecutive semifinal. The Lancers, who entered the playoffs as a No. 4 entry from the Olympic League, will face Santa Monica St. Monica, a 21-3 winner over Calabasas, next Saturday at a site to be determined.
Bishop Diego ends at 5-7.
Meza, who had touchdown runs of six, 13 and eight yards, credited his teammates.
"I didn't do it without the offensive line," Meza said. "They opened the holes and made it easy or me to run through."
Orange Lutheran's defense was able to contain the Cardinal offense with interceptions by Meza and Tim Fleming on the first two drives.
David Mercier also recovered a fumble by Bishop Diego quarterback Joe Stupar.
Fleming's interception and Mercier's fumble recovery both were converted into Meza touchdowns.
Orange Lutheran's offense wasn't clicking too well in the first half, but the Lancers picked it up in the third quarter on a 19-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Jason Whieldon to Jeff Renevier.
Pat Sims later ran one yard for a touchdown with 4 minutes 31 seconds left in the third quarter for a 28-0 Lancer lead.
After Meza's eight-yard touchdown run, the Cardinals were finally able to score on a three-yard run by Leo Rojas with 53 seconds left in the game. Stupar had set it up with a 19-yard pass reception and a Lancer penalty.
Bishop Diego got the onside kick and drove to the Lancer 6, but Stupar threw three incomplete passes.