Six games into the season Reseda was 3-3 and reeling from a blowout loss to its league rival. Eight wins in a row later, the Regents find themselves one victory away from a state bowl championship.
Reseda played stingy defense and capitalized on four Anaheim Esperanza turnovers to win Saturday’s CIF Southern California Regional Division 5-A game 28-0 at Yorba Linda High to advance to the final against Milpitas, a 26-19 winner over Caruthers in the Northern California Regional, next Saturday night.
Dranel Rhodes stole the show for Reseda in last week’s City Section Division I championship game against Woodland Hills El Camino Real, catching five passes for 150 yards and three touchdowns and running for a fourth score. This time, the spotlight shined brightest on fellow wideout Mario Martinez, who caught a 31-yard touchdown pass at the end of the first half and returned an interception 70 yards for a score on the first play of the second half.
“On the touchdown catch I just had faith in my quarterback and when I saw the ball in the air I knew I had to go up and get it,” Martinez said. “On the interception, I saw it was overthrown and the philosophy on the 50-50 balls is that it’s ours — we have to get it.”
Martinez intercepted another pass at Reseda’s one-yard line to stymie another scoring threat on Esperanza’s next drive, and two plays after the Aztecs fumbled a reverse at their own 19, Regents quarterback Trent Butler put the game out of reach with a 14-yard scamper to make it 28-0 with 10:20 left.
The Aztecs (10-5) were coming off their first CIF title since 1992, having held off Riverside Ramona 46-44 to win the Southern Section Division 13 championship — a game in which tailback Walter Gooding ran for 352 yards and four scores. He came into Saturday with 1,010 yards and 12 touchdowns in four playoff games, but Reseda held him to 51 yards.
After punting on its first three possessions, Reseda (11-3) struck first when Butler rolled right to avoid a sack and connected with Kameran Charles on a 32-yard touchdown. Butler was intercepted at the eight-yard line on Reseda’s next drive, but the Regents got the ball back when Rhodes stole a jump ball at the Esperanza 45.
Martinez fell backward to snare a pass from Butler in the back of the end zone to make it 14-0 with two seconds left in the first half. Esperanza tried a trick play to begin the third quarter, but on a run-pass option, Roshan Lacy overthrew his receiver, and Martinez made an over-the-shoulder catch, spun around and weaved through the Aztecs to give the Regents a commanding 21-0 lead.