There was a little more than first place on the line when Freeway League rivals Fullerton and Sunny Hills squared off Friday.
The Indians had extra incentive--they had not beaten the Lancers in the past nine seasons. And this figured to be a good night to break the streak: Sunny Hills is a team composed mostly of sophomores, and senior-laden Fullerton appears to the class of the league.
So it was no surprise when Fullerton rolled over Sunny Hills, 28-7, in front of 900 fans at Fullerton.
Everything about this season so far suggest the Indians, who made the playoffs last year for the first time in seven seasons, are preparing for a big finish.
The victory left Fullerton (7-1, 3-0) as the league's lone unbeaten team. The Indians' statistical and spiritual leader, John Wilkie, delivered on offense and defense, rushing for 101 yards and two touchdowns--giving him 10 on the season--and delivering several jarring hits and tipping two passes at linebacker.
Also productive were quarterback Gabriel Almanza, who passed for 114 yards, and tailback Mario Ramirez, who scored the other two Fullerton touchdowns.
Fullerton's defense was just as solid. Although it gave up its first league touchdown this season, and the first score of any kind since the winning field goal to Norwalk Glenn on Oct. 5--a span of nine quarters--the Indians forced Lancer quarterback Greg Garand into three interceptions and held the visitors to 173 total yards of offense.
Sunny Hills slid to 3-4-1, 2-1.
Although Fullerton put itself in great position to secure a playoff spot next week against La Habra, the only ending the Indians had in mind was shedding the grip the Lancers had on them since 1985.
And did they ever enjoy it. Coach Julian Smilowitz was doused with a bucket of water in the final 15 seconds, and when the game ended, the Indians passed out shirts that read "The Streak Is Over: Fullerton 3-0, Sunny Hills 2-1."
"We knew this was going to be the year it was going to end," Wilkie said. "Last year we had it won, then lost it in the last 12 seconds [on a touchdown pass]."
Smilowitz was happy the streak ended too, but did not equate the victory with winning league. "We still have two tough games to go," he said, referring to La Habra and Sonora.
The experience--and offensive line--of Fullerton began to exert themselves in the second quarter.
After a 23-yard screen pass by Almanza to David Barrios took the Indians to the Lancer 23, Fullerton kept running Wilkie and Ramirez until it got into the end zone. Ramirez capped a 58-yard, 12-play drive with a six-yard scoring run.
On Fullerton's next possession, Wilkie broke through the left side of the Sunny Hills defensive wall, and sped 27 yards for his ninth touchdown on the year, putting the Indians ahead, 14-0.