With 11 minutes and 14 seconds left, the winner of the Central Conference championship football game Saturday night at Glover Stadium in Anaheim was still in doubt.
Valencia High School had the ball on its 20-yard line and held a 7-0 lead over Anaheim.
But the Tigers went on a 17-play drive that gobbled up nearly eight minutes. Though it yielded no points, the drive effectively killed Anaheim's chances and Valencia, which scored a late insurance touchdown, won its first Southern Section football title, 13-0.
That late drive combined with an early touchdown and a stingy defense provided Valencia (12-2) with all it needed to beat Anaheim before an overflow crowd of about 10,000.
"It was a real team effort," Valencia Coach Mike Marrujo said. "It beats the heck out of standing out here losing."
Last season, the Tigers were beaten, 24-7, by Bolsa Grande in the Central Conference final. Saturday night, the jubilant Tigers hoisted Marrujo on their shoulders and shouted: "We're No. 1. We're No. 1."
Said Marrujo: "On that last drive, our line was really getting off the ball. Even though we didn't score, it put us in good field position and we scored on the next drive."
The Colonists finish 10-3-1 under Ted Mullen, in his first season as Anaheim coach.
Mullen was making his sixth appearance in a championship game and was trying to become only the second Southern Section coach to win three titles at three different schools.
He won Southern Conference championships at Villa Park in 1977 and Foothill in 1981.
Save for a touchdown on Valencia's first series, the Tiger offense sputtered against the Colonists' swarming defense. On the fourth-quarter drive, the Tiger offensive line opened big holes for running backs Keef Leasure and Randy Roskelly.
After the drive stalled and Paul Rivera missed a 35-yard field goal, Anaheim took over with just 3:45 left. The Colonists' first play, a flea-flicker from quarterback Robert Aldaz to running back Joaquin Garcia and back to Aldaz, lost four yards, however.
On second down, Aldaz fumbled the snap from center and Valencia's Fred Jenkins recovered at the Anaheim 14.
Aldaz played very little in the second half. He was hurt trying to tackle Tiger defensive Guy Sheppard after Sheppard intercepted a pass by Aldaz near the end of the half.
Two plays after the fumble, Leasure scored on a two-yard run, giving Valencia a 13-0 lead with 1:39 left.
Leasure, a junior, rushed for a game-high 112 yards in 21 carries, including a 31-yard gain on the Tigers' opening series that set up the game's first score.
Quarterback Robert Navarette threw a 7-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Mike Edwards with 8:34 left in the first quarter.
"We thought we could pass on them," Navarette said. "But they came out and played the pass tough. We picked our way through (the defense). We just outhit them."
Indeed, the Tiger defense limited Garcia, the Colonists' leading rusher with more than 1,500 yards this season, to just 54 yards in 17 carries.
"Our defense played great as usual," Marrujo said. "We didn't do anything different. We didn't put any new plays in. We went with what's worked for us all season."
Twice Valencia stopped Anaheim drives inside the Tigers' 10. The first time Anaheim reached the Valencia one, but another fumbled exchange killed that threat with 4:06 left in the third quarter.
John Aldridge, a junior linebacker, was instrumental in helping shut out Anaheim. He was continually in the the Anaheim backfield harassing Aldaz and Garcia.
"They were keeping the same snap count," Aldridge said. "It was real easy to read and our guys just shot through."
Then, early in the fourth quarter the Colonists drove to the Tiger 7, but Anaheim's Rick Reyes missed a 25-yard field goal.
That came with 11:14 left and Valencia went on its long drive.