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High Schools | FOOTBALL REWIND

Placentia Valencia Takes a Chance and Loses

November 24, 2003|Martin Henderson | Times Staff Writer

Placentia Valencia played for the victory rather than the tie in its first-round Southern Section playoff game.

And that decision cost the Tigers.

Mike Marrujo has been coach at Valencia for 23 years, has been to the playoffs 22 times and has won three section titles.

And he tried to win Friday in regulation against Tustin.

Instead, Valencia lost its Division VI opener to the Tillers, 35-34, after Marrujo chose to have the Tigers go for a two-point conversion rather than kick a tying extra point with 58 seconds left.

Rylon Thomas was stopped short of the goal line, and the Tigers were toast.

"It's called 42 Blast," Marrujo said. "It's our most successful run play. It's the first play we put in during spring ball.

"With the season on the line, let's run our best play with our best back behind our best lineman [Mike Schneeweis]."

Marrujo knew well in advance what he was going to do if faced with just such a situation.

"[Tustin] had zeroed in on personnel and knew where they had the advantage. They were going after a 10th-grader on one side [of the line]," Marrujo said. "I thought if we were going in for the [touchdown], we would go for two. I thought that was the best chance to win.

"I talked to a couple of coaches.... You get a sense of what's best for your ballclub."

Tustin scored twice in the final four minutes, on a five-yard run by James Bell to tie the score, 28-28, and then on Bell's 27-yard reception from Daniel Bales with 2:37 left after recovering a Valencia fumble.

"We were moving the ball," Marrujo said. "What's the difference? You're in a sudden-death situation. You feel like you have the upper hand at the moment, you say let's try to do it."

It made a winner of Tustin, which last season lost a Division VI semifinal to Hacienda Heights Los Altos, 29-28, on a failed two-point conversion in the final moments.

Tustin will play host to Los Altos on Friday.

*

Lakewood was trying to win a first-round playoff game for the first time in 20 years, and the Lancers appeared to have a promising Division I playoff run ahead of them after nearly upsetting Moore League rival Long Beach Poly two weeks ago.

They too, played to beat La Puente Bishop Amat, only to lose, 35-18, on Friday.

Lakewood had an 18-14 lead and was inside Bishop Amat's one-yard line with three minutes left in the third quarter when it eschewed a field-goal attempt.

Instead, senior tailback Elijah Webb got the ball, but he didn't get the call from the officials.

"Our quarterback [Justin Wheeler] was pretty adamant that he had scored," Coach Mike Christensen said. "I thought, 'Man, if we can get the ball in here and be up by 11, we've got a pretty good chance.' If we missed, they still had 99 yards to go."

Which Bishop Amat did, William Wagner running in from 49 yards for the go-ahead score and completing a 14-point swing that knocked the wind out of Lakewood. Wheeler had a pass intercepted on the next play, and Lakewood was finished.

"I don't know if that particular play lost us the game, but it definitely swung momentum," Christensen said. "In this situation, we're playing to win. We're not playing to not lose.

"The simplest way to explain it is if we can't get a yard, we don't deserve to win. They came up with a play, and we didn't."

*

Not everyone who took such chances came up empty.

Downey Warren defeated Pasadena Muir, 15-14, after James Callier scored on a one-yard run. After Muir jumped offsides on the PAT, he ran for the two-point conversion with 4:22 left in the Division III game.

Yardage didn't come easily for Warren, which scored on two short drives.

Callier, who rushed 24 times for 88 yards, capped a four-yard drive after Jeromy Powell's 56-yard punt return, and also scored late in the third quarter on a one-yard run that completed a 27-yard drive following a 16-yard punt.

*

Encino Crespi, the top-seeded team in Division X, recovered an onside kick to open the game, and went on to score on its first six possessions in a 56-12 victory over El Segundo.

Also recovering a game-opening on-side kick -- well, sort of -- was Twentynine Palms. And it was more valuable than Crespi's in the Wildcats' 17-14 victory over fourth-seeded San Pedro Mary Star in Division XI.

Because of a wet field, sophomore Kyle Candalaria slipped on the opening kickoff and booted what amounted to an unintentional on-side kick, which was recovered by Michael Usher. The visiting Wildcats went on to score on a 12-yard run by sophomore Ron Hampton.

Twentynine Palms won the game on a 22-yard field goal by its other kicker, Peter Babuata, with 10 seconds left.

"We've had our share of crazy games," Coach Ernie Martinez said, "but this ranks as one of the most exciting games we've had."

*

Playoff teams from the Tri-Valley League went 5-0 in the first round, outscoring Division XI opponents, 169-44. The Mountain View League went 4-0 in Division V, scoring 186 points between them.

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