Ray Pallares, Valencia High School running back, is so good that even 200-yard rushing performances for the senior seem sort of routine.
Pallares ran for 223 yards on 27 carries and scored 2 fourth-period touchdowns Friday night to lead the Tigers to 17-10 victory over El Dorado in a nonleague game played in front of 5,500 at Placentia’s Bradford Stadium.
He capped scoring drives of 59 and 51 yards, the first with a 12-yard touchdown run and the second with a 1-yard scoring run, in the final quarter to help Valencia to the come-from-behind win.
The 5-foot 11-inch, 188-pounder, who passed Anaheim’s Micky Flynn on Orange County’s all-time career rushing list with a four-yard run early in the second half, has amassed 3,801 yards in his Valencia career and ranks second behind leader Myron White, who gained 4,164 yards at Santa Ana Valley from 1972-74.
But for Pallares, his night’s work seemed like a typical game--the kind in which Pallares hacks away at the defense for gains of 5 to 10 yards and then sneaks a few 25- and 30-yard runs in.
Informed that he had rushed for 223 yards, a surprised Pallares replied, “I did? Geez.”
Valencia Coach Mike Marrujo, who has become accustomed to such performances, also was somewhat shocked at the final statistics.
“Two-hundred and twenty-three yards?” Marrujo asked. “I didn’t know he had that many. I guess we called a few running plays tonight.”
Just a few.
The Tigers ran the ball 45 times, and passed it seven times. But this wasn’t the way Marrujo devised it.
After being eliminated in the Central Conference semifinals in each of the past two seasons, partly because the Tigers couldn’t maintain a passing game when they needed one most, Marrujo had hoped to develop a more balanced offense this year.
But when something is going right, you stick with it.
Quarterback Jeff Martinez completed just 2 of 7 attempts for 20 yards, as the Valencia passing game was ineffective. But with Pallares and backfield mate Tony Goulet, who ran for 84 yards, and an offensive line that wore down El Dorado in the second half, Marrujo continued to run.
“That’s how we turned this program around, and that’s what we do best,” Marrujo said. “We take advantage of our best players. I thought we’d be more balanced, but if people are having trouble stopping us, we’re going to stick with it.”
The victory stopped El Dorado’s seven-game winning streak against Valencia, which had run from 1974-80 while the Placentia schools were in the Orange League. The Golden Hawks moved to the Empire League in 1981.
It had been five years since the Golden Hawks and Tigers met, but it didn’t take long for the teams to get re-acquainted, as El Dorado’s Rich Chamberlain returned the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown.
Marrujo wasn’t worried. Four times, opponents have returned opening kickoffs for touchdowns in his 15-year coaching career, and each time, his team came back to win.
Then, the Golden Hawks added a field goal early in the second period, Troy Dean’s 23-yarder, to take a 10-0 lead. Valencia, which hurt itself with two holding penalties and an interception in the first half, couldn’t score until there were two seconds remaining, when Alan Harrison made good on a 30-yard field goal to bring the Tigers to within seven, 10-3.
El Dorado had an excellent chance to take a 14-0 lead in the second quarter when the Golden Hawks had a first-and-goal at the Valencia two-yard line. But the Tigers goal-line defense pushed El Dorado back to the five in three plays, and the Golden Hawks had to settle for Dean’s field goal.
Valencia stopped Chamberlain for no gain on first down, Pallares, playing linebacker, batted down a Dan Sutherland pass on second down, and linebacker Robert Rangel penetrated the backfield on third down to throw Chamberlain for a three-yard loss.
Pallares also tackled Chamberlain for a four-yard loss on a fourth-and-one play from the Valencia 29 with a minute left in the first half to give the Tigers the possession that allowed them to score their only first-half points.