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PREP FOOTBALL / Southern Section Playoffs

Brea Withstands Fullerton's Challenge, 26-21


Fullerton gave second-seeded Brea Olinda all it could handle before falling, 26-21, in a Southern Section Division IX second-round football game Friday at Fullerton High.

"That's the toughest game we've had all year, by far," Brea Olinda Coach Jon Looney said. "We're just happy to be in the semifinals."

Brea (11-1) advanced to play Lakewood Mayfair Saturday. Mayfair defeated Bonita, 46-29.

Fullerton (6-6) led, 21-17, after three quarters, but three fourth-quarter turnovers short-circuited its upset hopes.

Justin Stitt had two of Brea's six sacks and the Wildcats forced four turnovers in the second half to aid its sputtering offense, which entered the game averaging 38 points.

Brea's longest touchdown drive was 52 yards against a gritty Fullerton defense, which did not allow a first down until midway through the second quarter. But Brea still put points on the scoreboard thanks to four field goals by Jeff Marshall.

Brea eventually escaped, although Fullerton quarterback Johnathan Pate produced three touchdowns, including two touchdown passes to Andy Zarate.

In last week's playoff victory over La Quinta, Pate returned a kickoff, punt and interception for touchdowns and threw two touchdown passes.

"We knew he was dangerous," said Brea defensive back Ron Benigno, who had one interception. "We just told each other on defense, 'No big plays.' "

Although Brea allowed some big plays, the Wildcats delivered when it counted.

Pate's 29-yard touchdown pass to Zarate gave Fullerton the lead, 21-17, with 47 seconds remaining in the third quarter. But Brea bounced back.

After Benigno's interception, Scott Lieng (20 carries, 85 yards rushing) capped a five-minute, 52-yard drive with a six-yard touchdown run to put Brea ahead, 23-21, with 5 minutes 58 seconds remaining.

Then Brea's Martin Alvarado recovered a fumbled center-snap exchange on Fullerton's next possession, giving Brea the ball at the Fullerton 17. Brea extended its lead to 26-21 on Marshall's 14th field goal of the season with 3:45 remaining.

Deonta Birdsong's interception with 3:23 remaining ended Fullerton's next possession and Brea ran out the clock. Birdsong also had a 47-yard punt return to set up Chris Sanford's one-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

Fullerton started quickly with Armando Lopez taking the game's first carry for 39 yards right up the middle. One play later, Pate scampered 40 yards up the middle on a keeper for a touchdown.

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