BLANKET — For the first time in several years, the Santa Anna Mountaineers can call themselves area champions after a decisive 79-38 victory over the Blum Bulldogs here Friday night.
Dominant first and fourth quarter performances led to the Mountaineers advancing. Santa Anna set the tone for the game by scoring on its second offensive possession.
Junior Michael Valencia ran in from 6 yards out to give the Mountaineer the lead. Senior Mikey Rhoades found sophomore Logan Mendoza for the conversion with 6:26 left in the first quarter to take a 7-0 lead.
Senior Talon King, who had three interceptions on the night, grabbed his first late in the first quarter. Valencia capitalized, finding the end zone with 3:39 left in the first quarter. The Mountaineers, who struggled with a majority of extra point kicks in the game, connected to take a 15-0 lead.
Santa Anna’s defense bailed out the special teams unit, which was struggling to contain the Bobcats on kickoff returns. On Blum’s last drive of the first quarter, a punt was forced. The ensuing drive saw sophomore Lucas Diaz and Valencia taking turns rushing, with Valencia ending the first quarter with a 3-yard touchdown run. Rhoades’ kick was good, giving the Mountaineers a 23-0 lead heading into the second quarter.
The Bobcats had been stuffed during the first quarter by the Santa Anna defense, but found the end zone early in the second quarter to cut Santa Anna’s lead to 23-8.
The Mountaineers took advantage of the lackluster kicking game of the Bobcats, who ensured good field position for Santa Anna on nearly every kickoff. The Blum defense seemed to have little answer for the rushing attack, led by Valencia, King and Diaz. That point was made even more apparent after a Diaz score with 3:35 left in the first half. After an extra point pass from King to senior Josh Perez, the Mountaineers took a 30-8 lead.
King snagged his second pick of the night with less than two minutes in the half. The Mountaineers could not capitalize, as Blum would return the favor, picking off King. Santa Anna’s defense broke up three consecutive pass attempts on the ensuing drive, which saw Blum turn the ball over on downs. The Mountaineers drove deep into Blum territory, but could not score before the half.
“There was a lot of ugly in this game,” said Santa Anna head coach Cameron Norris. “But, I will take an ugly win any day of the week.
"I am proud of these boys. They have been working hard since Aug. 6 to get to this point. We are going to work on some things next week and give whoever we play a game."
The Bobcats lessened the Mountaineer lead to 30-16 on their first possession of the second half. Santa Anna responded immediately, with Valencia hooking up with junior Zach Diaz on a 31-yard catch and run for a score. The extra point was successful, giving the Mountaineers a 38-16 lead.
Santa Anna had ball control issues throughout the game, which led to most of Blum’s second half points. Twelve seconds into the final quarter, the Bobcats capitalized on a Mountaineer fumble, cutting Santa Anna’s lead to 46-30. And again, Santa Anna responded with a score of its own. This time, it was King running back the ensuing kickoff for a score.
Valencia contributed three more scores late in the fourth quarter, while King’s last pick saw him run 38 yards for the final score of the game.
With the win, Santa Anna now holds a 11-1 overall record and will face Gordon (9-3) next week.