It was exactly what Scripps Ranch football coach Marlon Gardinera expected.
Valencia would try to prevent the run and force the Falcons to pass.
On the offensive, the Vikings would try to run the ball behind Giorgio Spiropoulo’s big back.
Scripps Ranch’s explosive 17-TD running back Jalen Shaw warmed up but was unable to walk due to an injury.
So the Falcons flew behind junior quarterback Jax Leatherwood, who made 18 of 26 passes for 434 yards with touchdown strikes of 29, 81 and 84 yards on Conor Lawlor, 32 yards on Dylan Wenger and 30 on Reece Keahey, and won the 2nd – AA Southern California Regional Playoff game 45-38 on a cold Saturday night in the San Fernando Valley.
The Scripps Ranch arrives at the State Championship Game next Saturday at noon at Saddleback College against Santa Clara Wilcox.
“They were bigger and stronger,” said Gardinera, fighting back tears. “We beat them with heart.
“They spread the field and tried to bury us. They were ready to play. But I tell you, anyone who has ever doubted Jax Leatherwood better think again. “
Leatherwood said he’s never had a better night.
“I’ve had people walking wide open,” said Leatherwood. “We have great coaches and the program worked perfectly. That was so much fun. “
Lawlor had a blast too, catching six passes for 218 yards and throwing a TD pass.
“We played a big, physical and very good football team,” said Lawlor. “After a long bus ride (almost three hours) playing in the cold, it got to my heart. We just wanted it more. “
“We had people open all night and that’s by design. We have great coaches and a great program. We are always in position to play games. “
The Falcons (12-1) threw 464 yards and ran 63.
Valencia (8-5) stormed for 162 yards and passed for 283 yards, with Trey Erickson completing 17 of 22 for 248 yards while Duhron Goodman caught nine passes for 183 yards.
The Falcons beat the Vikings with two big plays in the first half.
After a field goal from Thomas Rohrer, Leatherwood hit a wide-open lawlor with an 80-yard scoring pass.
An interception by Nijah Richardson blunted a Valencia Drive, and seven games later the Falcons hit the Vikings with a trick game that saw Lawlor fire a 30-yard TD strike at Keahey to give Scripps Ranch a 17-0 lead .
Keahey had four catches for 75 yards. Wenger caught seven passes for 163.
However, the Falcons gave up a cheap score just before halftime when quarterback Erickson dodged a heavy onslaught and found Goodman in the middle of the field at Scripps Ranch 15.
Goodman dodged three tackles and snaked into the end zone 19 seconds before the end of half-time.