June 14, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Troy football team celebrates first CIF playoff victory in 17 seasons

Troy players and coaches celebrate after Friday’s victory over Monrovia. (Photos courtesy Jim McCormack, For OC Sports Zone).

Typically, Michael Echaves is about as stoic as a coach can be, but even he couldn’t keep from smiling as time wound down on Troy’s 41-28 victory over Monrovia Friday night in a first-round CIF Division 9 football playoff game at Fullerton High School.

The victory was Troy’s first in the CIF playoffs in 17 seasons. The Warriors will host Santa Monica, a 34-27 winner over Santa Ana, in a quarterfinal round contest Friday night at Fullerton, Troy’s home field.

The Warriors (7-4) played about as perfect a first-half as a team can play, dominating the line of scrimmage with a rushing attack and completely neutralizing Monrovia’s gifted quarterback, Brian Salazar Jr.

Salazar, a two-year starter came into the game with two season totals of more than 6,000 yards and 51 touchdowns. In 19 career games he had been intercepted 12 times, eight this year.

“We knew we could run on them and that’s what we wanted to do, keep their offense off the field,” Echaves said.

And the Warriors accomplished that goal with a relentless rushing attack, aided by timely passes from quarterback Rudy Alcala, Troy built up a 28-0 halftime lead.

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

Tailback Ethan Mundt scored three times on short runs as the Warriors built their halftime advantage.

Even more remarkable, the Troy defense pressured Salazar Jr. enough to intercept three passes, by Mundt, Hayden Sanchez and Cayleb Quiroz.

“The three turnovers in the first half, that was just unreal,” Echaves said. “Our defense struggled at the beginning of the year and to see them come so far and see them play the way they are is so phenomenal.”

Monrovia had a chance to score in the final seconds of the first half with a drive inside the Troy 20, but out of timeouts, time expired after Troy’s Derek Rubalcava tackled Monrovia’s Vincent Pace before he could get out of bounds with 5 seconds remaining in the quarter.

Time ran out before the Wildcats could run another play, although Coach Jose Casagran and his players complained that Pace should have ruled out of bounds.

The teams traded single TDs in the third quarter and with little more than 10 minutes remaining in the game Troy appeared to have a commanding 34-7 lead.

That changed quickly when Monrovia’s explosive offense quickly scored twice, first on a 30-yard run by Dante Jones and then on a 32-yard pass from Salazar Jr. to Noah Ellison, after the Wildcats recovered an onside kick. Suddenly, Monrovia was within 13, 34-21, with 7:57 remaining.

Troy recovered the ensuing onside kick and then did what it had done all night … use its rushing attack to chew up the clock.

The Warriors drove down the field to a first down on the 2 with 4:58 to play when things suddenly unraveled. First down lost two yards, second down lost two more and third down lost 14 more. That left Troy with s 4th-and-18 with 2:42 to play.

That’s when quarterback Rudy Alcala and receiver Declan Kai Healey hooked up on a Sports Center Top 10 quality play.

Kai Healey beat his defender on a soft post to the end zone and reached up and one-handed the Alcala pass. He seemed surprised when he landed in the endzone with the ball still in his grasp. The TD pass was Alcala’s 23rd of the season, tying the Warriors’ single-season record.

“At some point you’ve just got to give it your all,” said Kai Healey, who scored three TDs in the game. “It was kind of like a movie. You kind of blank out, then you’re on the ground with the ball. It was surreal.”

Troy rushed for 297 yards, led by Mundt (23-181-3) and Kai Healey (12-71-2) and Alcala passed for 115 timely yards and a TD.

Salazar Jr. passed for 258 yards and two TDs with three interceptions. Jones rushed for 82 yards and a score and Ellison had 12 catches for 127 yards and two scores.

—Courtesy Jim McCormack, For OC Sports Zone