SOUTHEAST GLENDALE — For the first time in more than a year, the Glendale High football team got to celebrate.
And did it ever.
The Nitros thumped Pacific League and cross-town rival Hoover, 54-19, on Friday at Moyse Field, ending their 2010 season with smiles and joyful tears that they hadn't experienced since last winning a game in 2009.
"This was the biggest game," said a teary-eyed Chan Kim, the Nitros' star running back of the night who rushed for 111 yards and a pair of touchdowns. "It's the best feeling ever. We broke them."
Glendale (1-9, 1-6 in league) broke the Tornadoes (1-9, 0-7) with ease.
The Nitros scored the most points in the history of the "Battle for the Victory Bell," which dates to 1930. They also had the largest margin of victory since a Pathon Rucker-led Nitro team defeated the Tornadoes, 51-0, in 1991. Glendale leads the all-time series, 47-33-2, notching the victory a year after losing to Hoover, 15-7.
"This game was the biggest game of the season," said an exhausted Alex Yoon, Glendale's starting quarterback who attempted four passes and rushed for a game-high 123 yards and three touchdowns in just nine carries. "There was a lot of pressure on all of us to show up and play hard for ourselves and for our school."
Glendale, which had lost 16 straight, played hard on offense, defense and special teams.
The run-orientated Nitros rushed for 388 yards in 48 carries, averaging 8.1 yards per carry.
"They kept pounding us and pounding us and we couldn't get a stop," Tornado Coach Chris Long said. "Our run defense has struggled all year."
Glendale had 13 rushes of at least 11 yards, with the Yoon having the highlights of the night with touchdown runs of 24, 22 and 49 yards.
"We knew we could run the ball and we did," said Glendale Coach Alan Eberhart, who was drenched after being doused with Gatorade. "We also got breaks."
The Nitros' breaks came on special teams.
Glendale's Alejandro Maravilla gave the Nitros excellent field position throughout the night, returning kickoffs to Hoover's 44, 45 and 13, which all set up scores. All but one of the eight Nitro scoring drives started in Hoover territory.
"The field position was all because of special teams," Yoon said. "Alejandro Maravilla ran his heart out on special teams."
Glendale's four first-half touchdowns — which also included Anthony Platero's one-yard run, Alex Manukian's nine-yard rush and Kim one-yard dive, in addition to Yoon's 24-yarder — started after the Nitros had an average starting field position of Hoover's 34-yard line.
"Our kickoff team has been bad all year," Long said. "We worked on it, but we couldn't find an answer."
Despite its miscues, Hoover, which has not won two consecutive games against the Nitros since 1983-84, stayed close until midway through the third quarter. Tornado quarterback A.J. Pule had a four-yard touchdown run that cut Glendale's lead to 26-19. Pule, a senior, was 10 of 21 for 117 yards and had a 20-yard touchdown pass to Luke Taboyoyong. Devaughn Williams had a three-yard touchdown run for the Tornadoes in the second quarter.
But it was the third and fourth quarters that proved to be the difference.
A Glendale team that has struggled throughout the second half of games this season suddenly exploded for 28 unanswered points after Pule's rushing touchdown.
Yoon provided two of the scores and Kim had another one. Duncan Maxwell provided the capper of the night with a three-yard touchdown run with 7:06 to play.
"We finally figured it out," Eberhart said. "We figured out how to play. Everything came together the right way. This is one of the best wins I've ever had. I didn't want to carry this to the offseason. I was tired of losing. It was as important of a win that I've ever had."