TWENTYNINE PALMS — Chris Fuifui is listed at 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds, so arm tackles weren't going to bring down the Twentynine Palms High junior tailback on Friday night.
Fuifui runs behind another physical specimen, senior right tackle Tuvalu Melei, listed at 6-4, 340. When the Sage Hill football players saw him on the field, they knew those measurements couldn't be too far off.
Sage Hill made the long trek from Orange County, leaving at 11:30 a.m. Friday. The Lightning left a little more bruised than when they got there, their season over.
They fell to the bigger and more physical Twentynine Palms, 45-27, in a CIF Southern Section East Valley Division first-round playoff game at Twentynine Palms Junior High.
"Any time you have a -pound kid on your team and a running back who is 220-plus, there's definitely a competitive advantage," Sage Hill Coach J.R. Tolver said. "That being said, our kids came out and did everything we asked them to do. They fought hard."
Twentynine Palms (8-3) denied Sage (8-3) its second-ever playoff victory. The drive went through Joshua Tree, but the Lightning didn't find the first playoff win in five years that they were looking for.
The Warriors ran Fuifui behind Melei, and good things happened.
Fuifui had just 11 carries, but they went for 215 yards and three touchdowns.
On Fuifui's last touchdown carry, a 35-yarder that capped the Wildcats' scoring in the third quarter, he carried a Sage defensive back for about 10 yards before finding the end zone.
"What's it like [running behind Melei]?" Fuifui said. "Oh, man. To run behind him is a glory. Running behind him, you're going to get more than what you expect."
Sage Hill was down, 45-3, after three quarters before scoring 24 unanswered in the fourth. The Lightning never quit.
"Our motto this year was to finish," said senior quarterback Randall Mycorn, who threw fourth-quarter touchdown passes to Taylor Petty and Ford Hanour. "The reason that we kept our heads up [tonight] is because we had that mentality all year. Just like Tri-City, we were down by a lot but we came back. Unfortunately, we didn't come back [tonight] but we still finished the game. That's Sage Hill football."
Sage senior running back Taylor Ross, who holds the Lightning season and career rushing records, finished with 24 carries and 101 yards. He scored the game's final points on an eight-yard run up the middle with less than a minute to go.
"Twentynine Palms is a good football team, man," Tolver said. "They've got some great athletes. They executed well. They were just too much for us early on."
Twentynine Palms 45, Sage Hill 27
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Sage 3 – 0 – 0 – 24 — 27
Palms 13 – 13 – 19 – 0 — 45
TP – Fuifui 10 run (kick failed), 8:03.
SH – Ross 45 FG, 4:37.
TP – Fuifui 31 run (Miller kick), 3:10.
TP – Miller 1 run (kick blocked), 8:05.
TP – Nealy 2 run (Miller kick), 0:24.
TP – Haney 2 run (kick failed), 11:32.
TP – Miller 7 run (Miller kick), 9:22.
TP – Fuifui 35 run (kick failed), 2:45.
SH – Petty 17 pass from Mycorn (Petty pass from Mycorn), 5:59.
SH – Hanour 3 pass from Mycorn (Ascher pass from Ross), 1:54.
SH – Ross 8 run (Ross run), 0:45.
SH – Ross, 24-101, 1 TD.
TP – Fuifui, 11-215, 3 TDs.
SH – Mycorn, 16-34-0, 210, 2 TDs.
TP – Miller, 2-4-0, 63.
SH – Petty, 5-81, 1 TD.
TP – Waring, 2-63.