Free safety Fred Camarena intercepted his third pass of the game with only four minutes remaining at Brea-Olinda High School’s 10 to preserve the Wildcats’ 21-16 nonleague win over Walnut Saturday night in front of 1,000 fans at Nogales High in Rowland Heights.
Camarena’s clutch interception and defensive tackle Sefie Vargas’ sack in the final seconds were the big plays for the Wildcats on a night that they were missing eight starters. Brea evened its record at 1-1, Walnut fell to 0-1-1.
Brea Coach Bill Brown called the previous seven days “the most difficult week I’ve ever had coaching” after four starters were hurt in the Wildcats’ opener and others were benched for disciplinary reasons.
“We had a lot of kids out there who had never been in a varsity game,” Brown said. “I thought guard Brady Russell and center Scott Anderson did a great job. I’m proud of our kids and our coaches.”
It looked as if Brea was going to breeze to a lopsided win against a Walnut team that had gone 8-22 in three previous seasons. The Wildcats opened a 21-7 lead at halftime as quarterback Eric Oden had 145 yards and three touchdown passes.
But former Bishop Amat Coach Jim Patricio has instilled new life at Walnut, and the Mustangs came back to score nine points in the second half and dominated the Wildcats in the process.
Brea ran only 16 plays in the second half and gained just two first downs. The Wildcats appeared to be in big trouble when Walnut linebacker Rolando Nichols dumped Oden in the end zone on the second play of the fourth quarter for a safety to move the Mustangs closer, 21-16.
But Camarena had two interceptions in the final four minutes of play to seal the win for the Wildcats and end a long week for Brown and his staff.
“Fred is our ace in the hole,” Brown said. “I can play him anywhere on the field because he’s such a versatile athlete. He saved us tonight.”