May 30, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Fullerton stages big second half comeback and captures 28-21 win over Troy

Jakob Garcia hauls in a touchdown pass for Fullerton Friday night. (Photos courtesy Fullerton football George Calderon, For OC Sports Zone).

Fullerton rallied for three second half touchdowns and came from behind to defeat Troy 28-21 in the Freeway League opener for both teams Friday night at Fullerton High.

To see the slide show, please click on the first photo

Indians quarterback Dylan Neal threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Jakob Garcia with 25 seconds remaining for the game-winner as Fullerton improved its record to 4-2 overall.

Neal moved the Indians to the Warriors 8-yard line with just over a half minute to play. The junior QB, playing in his first game after having to sit out the first five games of the season due to the CIF transfer rule, fired a pass over the middle that Garcia hauled as he was getting drilled in the end zone.

Jeremiah Smith intercepted a Troy pass in the final seconds to secure the win for Fullerton.

“I was so anxious to play tonight after having to sit out the first five games,” said Neal, who transferred from Servite and completed 16 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns.  “I just wanted to show everybody I could do it and then I finally settled down and we were alright.”

Garcia said he hurt his hip on the final touchdown play but held onto the ball. 

“The linebacker tipped the ball on the touchdown and I had to really focus to catch it because I knew I was going to get hit,” said Garcia, who had eight catches and two touchdowns, including a 9-yard TD reception that tied the score 7-7 in the second quarter. “It’s a great comeback win and it gives us a lot of momentum. We picked it up all around.”

After leading 14-7 at the break, Troy opened the second half with a 12- play, 92-yard scoring drive to increase its lead to 21-7. Warriors quarterback Roman Arriaga guided Troy as it rushed the ball 11 times during the drive to extend the lead to two touchdowns.

“They are not a 1-5 team,” said Fullerton Coach Richard Salazar. “I had to get our guys together and settle them down. I told them, ‘you can do this’ and they responded. We didn’t panic.”

Fullerton then started to turn the tide of the game as they surged with a 5-play drive that was culminated with a 5-yard touchdown run by Arthur Shaw, cutting the lead to 21-14 with 5:04 left in the third quarter.

Shaw, the second leading rusher in Orange County entering Friday’s game, was held out of the first quarter for breaking a team rule, the coach said. His presence was immediately felt when he entered the game in the second quarter. His second TD run, 17-yarder, with 37 seconds left in the third quarter tied the score at 21-21.

“We played a little soft in the first half but we played with more confidence in the second half and that made the difference,” Shaw said. He finished the game with 104 yards rushing on 16 carries and two touchdowns. He has now rushed for 1,091 yards and has scored 14 touchdowns this season.

The Indians defense then picked up their pace as they were bolstered by junior middle linebacker Matthew Galvan and defensive lineman Bobby Diaz. The pair helped slow the Warriors (1-5, 0-1) over their final four possessions of the game. 

“We knew we had to get our offense the ball back and not let them score,” said Galvan. “We focused better in the second half and played better as a unit.”

Fullerton took the opening kickoff and moved down the field quickly but defensive tackle Evan Johnson recovered a Fullerton fumble at the Warriors 16 to stall the Indians drive. 

Troy responded by putting together a 16-play, 73-yard scoring drive to take a 7-0 lead. The key play on the drive was a 12-yard run to the Indians 13 by Shane Simpson on a fourth down play. Four plays later, Arriaga bolted in from a yard out to give the Warriors the lead. 

Fullerton countered nicely as they marched 71 yards in 11 plays to tie the game at 7-7. Neal tossed a nine-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jakob Garcia on the first play of the second quarter to even the score. 

The game was marred with the teams combining to be flagged for 27 penalties. Both teams were assessed over 100 yards each in penalties.

The Indians had a golden opportunity to take the lead late in the half when Troy had the ball snapped over their punter’s head on a fourth down play. Fullerton took possession at the Warriors 18 but on the second play free safety Jason Yokoyama intercepted a Fullerton pass at the 5 and returned it 55 yards to the Indians 40. 

Troy took advantage of the Fullerton miscue and regained the lead on a 12-yard TD pass from Arriaga to Isaac Torosian with 6 seconds remaining in the half.  Arriaga kept the drive alive with a crucial fourth-down run at the Indians 29. 

The Warriors held the Indians under 100 yards of offense in the first half and forced two turnovers.

“We played hard and physical and we controlled the ball,” said Troy Coach Michael Eachaves. “I’m so proud of our guys. Our program is moving in the right direction. Give Fullerton credit, they have great athletes.”

The trio of Simpson, Arriaga, and Lukas Mucino combined to rush for 243 yards and two touchdowns.

STATS      

RUSHING: F, Shaw 16-104, Williams 7-44; T, Simpson 19-91, Mucino 16-86

PASSING: F, Neal 16-27-1, 188 yards, 2 TDs; T, Arriaga, 8-14-1, 54 yards

RECEVING:  F, Garcia 8-58, Romero 2-52;  T, Frisbie 4-32, Torosian 3-22.

-Tom Connolly, For OC Sports Zone