With his quarterback displaying all the finesse of a bricklayer in the first half, and with a strong offensive line and three good running backs, Pacifica High School football Coach Bill Craven figured it was time to get back to some basic offensive strategy in the second half of the Mariners’ season-opening game against Villa Park Thursday night.
Run, run and then run some more.
Wearing down the Spartans’ smaller defensive line, Pacifica ran 31 times in the second half, including nine rushing plays on a game-winning drive in the third quarter that lifted the Mariners to a 17-10 victory in Fred Kelly Stadium at Orange.
After failing to complete his last six passes in the first half, Pacifica quarterback Scott Pettit, who threw just once in the second half, spent the rest of the night handing off to fullback Bill Hardesty and tailbacks Tony Caceda and Callen Chase, who combined for 138 yards rushing in the second half.
Caceda, 5-foot-6 and 150 pounds, did the most damage, gaining 99 yards on 13 carries, including a seven-yard touchdown run in the second period. Chase added 54 yards and Hardesty had 38.
It was a well-played game for a season opener. There was just one turnover, when Villa Park quarterback Mike Cederoth fumbled after being sacked by Chris Hartman. Pacifica’s Robert Joubert recovered at the Spartan 39-yard line.
The mistake proved to be crucial, as it led to the Mariner’s winning touchdown. On the ninth rushing play of their ensuing drive, Chase found the end zone from two yards out and Keith Greene added the extra point to give Pacifica a 17-10 lead.
The lead held, as Pacifica continued controled the game with its ball-control offense. The Mariners maintained possession for about 18 minutes of the second half. Villa Park had the ball for six minutes.
Pacifica found a great deal of success when the ball was in Caceda’s hands. He may be small, but he’s a strong and explosive tailback who is adept at slipping through small holes in the line and bouncing off would-be tacklers.
Caceda, who won the 148-pound class of the Esperanza Powerlifting Contest last April, had gains of 23, 14, 15 and 12 yards in the second half, his 15-yarder coming on a third-and-11 play with about four minutes remaining, which allowed Pacifica to continue a drive that that eventually ran out the clock.
“His speed in the 40-yard dash wouldn’t impress you, but his first five yards will,” Craven said. “His legs are so short and he moves so quickly. He has great vision and finds the holes. We really have three good backs in Caceda, Hardesty and Chase.”
He’ll have to work a little more with his quarterback, though. Pettit is a converted tight end who played his first game at quarterback Thursday night and completed 4 of 11 passes for 41 yards. Many of his attempts hit the ground before they got near any receivers.
“He has a good arm, but he needs to work on his touch,” Craven said. “He’s still trying to get his timing down. He struggled some mechanically, but he came through for us.”
With the exception of the fumble, the Villa Park offense also came through--it just didn’t have the ball enough in the second half to mount any kind of threat.
Jaime Nelson, a transfer from Los Amigos who was an All-Garden Grove League selection in 1984, rushed 12 times for 76 yards, while returning fullback Dave Rose ran 16 times for 65 yards and scored the Spartans’ only touchdown on a one-yard run in the first quarter. Cederoth completed 4 of 7 passes for 71 yards.
Greene kicked a 27-yard field goal in the first quarter for Pacifica, and his counterpart, Villa Park kicker Ryan Hayes, accounted for the Spartans’ other three points with a 35-yard field goal in the second quarter.