Orange Lutheran was a shell of itself at the beginning of the season but now that the regular season has ended, the Lancers are shaping into a team expected to seriously contend for the Southern Section Division VI title.
The Lancers, ranked No. 10 in the Southland by The Times, produced a strong all-around effort Friday night against No. 18 Placentia Valencia, forcing five turnovers and making early plays on special teams to pave the way for a 24-7 victory at Valencia.
The victory clinched the seventh consecutive league championship for Orange Lutheran and its third in a row in the Empire League.
Probably the best news for the Lancers was seeing quarterback Seth Blackamore and kicker Troy Van Blarcom back in championship form.
Blackamore, the Division VI co-player of the year last season, had taken only two snaps coming into the game after injuring his knee during practice in early August. He completed his first pass of the season to close out the first half, a 37-yard fling after a scramble to Austin Pettis.
“It’s feeling really good,” Blackamore said of the knee. “It’s almost back to normal.”
Van Blarcom, who missed the first half of the season after suffering a similar knee injury in June, booted a school record 54-yard field goal to give the Lancers a 17-0 halftime lead.
After Orange Lutheran (9-1, 5-0) stopped Valencia on its first three plays, Donny Lee returned a punt 66 yards for a touchdown just 77 seconds into the game, putting the Tigers behind for the first time this season.
Valencia (9-1, 4-1) then had a 64-yard touchdown reception by Rashad Chambers called back because of a pass interference penalty on Chambers.
Orange Lutheran forced the second of three-first half turnovers with 3 minutes 11 seconds left in the first quarter, stripping Valencia running back Rylon Thomas at the Valencia 43. Zach Heim, who also had two interceptions, recovered the ball. Sophomore quarterback Aaron Corp, who replaced Blackamore this season, followed with a two-yard touchdown run for a 14-0 lead.
Valencia appeared ready to score late in the first half, using 12 plays to drive to the Orange Lutheran seven-yard line. But Kyle Renny stepped in front of Anthony Quiroz at the goal line for an interception.
Valencia quarterback Luis Cruz stood firm on a blitz early in the fourth quarter and hit receiver Ray Magee over the middle for a 53-yard touchdown play, cutting the lead to 17-7. The Lancers then followed with an 11-play, 69-yard drive, capped by a five-yard run by reserve quarterback Blake Lucas.