By STEVE FRYER STAFF WRITER OCRegister
Valencia's Marrujo a winner to the very end. 284-131-6. Valencia was 1-9 in 2011. The school’s football team had been so good for so long. Maybe 1-9 was an indication that the good times were over. Tigers coach Mike Marrujo did not think so. Marrujo hung in there. He returned the program to respectability, and beyond. Valencia went 11-1 in 2015 and won another Empire League championship with a 5-0 league record.
For such a fine turnaround and outstanding season, Marrujo is the Register’s Orange County football coach of the year. The season and award capped a great career. Marrujo, 64, announced this month his retirement from coaching. He was Valencia’s coach for 35 years. His coaching career and 2015 season ended with a loss to Villa Park in the second round of the CIF-SS Southwest Division playoffs. Going into that game, the Tigers were 11-0 for only the third time in school history.
Marrujo has seen much success at Valencia. His record at the school was 284-131-6. Marrujo’s teams won three Southern Section championships and 15 league championships. Only John Barnes, who is retiring at Los Alamitos, Mission Viejo’s Bob Johnson and Mater Dei’s Bruce Rollinson have more league titles in Orange County football.
This year’s league championship was one of the more satisfying ones for Marrujo. Before the season opener, he was confident the Tigers had talent in some areas. He wasn’t quite so sure about a couple of other units. “We knew we had the skill guys,” Marrujo said. “But we didn’t know about the offensive line. We had one big guy coming back. but he got hurt early in the season. So we were left there with one senior, three juniors and a sophomore starting for us.
“We figured if they played reasonably well, we’d be OK. And they did.” Valencia’s defense also came through. “We were confident that we’d be pretty good there,” Marrujo said. “But not as good as the defense turned out to be.” Marrujo handed defensive coordinator responsibilities to Shawn Racobs, El Dorado’s head coach some years ago and who recently had been an assistant coach at Santa Ana College.
“Shawn did some things with our defense that he’d been doing over at SAC,” Marrujo said. “He got more juice out of the kids on defense. That unit played really well.” Valencia allowed only 10 points a game. The Tigers recorded back-to-back shutouts in October against Laguna Hills and Kennedy. Both of those opponents qualified for the Southwest Division playoffs.
The Tigers scored 36 points a game. They did not score fewer than 24 points in a game until the 28-15 loss to Villa Park on Nov. 20. Six of the Valencia’s 10 regular-season wins were against teams that went on to qualify for the playoffs. The Tigers got off to a roaring start with a 41-7 win at Yorba Linda. Then came wins of 34-7 over Brea Olinda and 35-2 over El Dorado, and Valencia was on its way to a succesful season.
Racobs was named Marrujo’s replacement shortly after Marrujo announced his retirement. Marrujo hoped that would occur. Marrujo said he was fortunate to have excellent assistant coaches on his staff during his long tenure. Of the many, Marrujo singled out Curt Pike, who has with Marrujo since the 1980s.
“He was one of my student-teachers in my first or second year of teaching, too,” Marrujo said. Marrujo said he will miss the camaraderie and game-planning with Valencia coaches. He will miss, too, the challenges brought by opposing coaches of whom he has some favorites, such as Loara coach Mitch Olson, who years ago coached Kennedy in many great games against Valencia.
“We had some battles,” Marrujo said. “He was always a lot of fun. In the ’80s, when I was just starting, there were some great games against ‘Moon’ Mullen when he was at Anaheim. And I always liked Myron Miller at Tustin, just a very classy guy.” The hours required to run a high school football program continue to increase. Coaching began to physically wear down Marrujo. He figured this would be a good time to move along.
“It’s been 35 years,” he said. “If not now, when?” Marrujo goes out on top. The view is familiar.
By STEVE FRYER STAFF WRITER
Valencia’s administrators tried to talk him out of it. Of course they would. No school wants to see its football coach, who won more than 300 games while having the respect of coaches throughout Southern California, walk out the door. Mike Marrujo announced Monday that he is retiring as football head coach at Valencia, where he was head coach for 35 seasons.
Marrujo, 64, coached Valencia to three CIF-SS titles and 15 league championships. Only John Barnes, who last week announced his retirement at Los Alamitos, Mission Viejo’s Bob Johnson and Mater Dei’s Bruce Rollinson have won more Orange County league titles. His record at Valencia is 284-131-6. Including four years coaching at Pius X of Downey, Marrujo’s career record is 306-131-1. Barnes and Johnson are the only other county coaches with 300 or more wins.
Marrujo said coaching finally had become a grind. “It was wearing on me physically this last year,” he said. “It’s a lot tougher to coach when you’re older than it is when you’re 26 years old, which I was when I started.” Marrujo is unsure if he will also retire as a U.S. history teacher at Valencia at the end of this school year.
He is very sure he is finished coaching, although Valencia administrators would love to keep him around. “They asked me if I wanted to walk on if I retire from teaching,” said Marrujo, referring to the “walk-on” label applied to a coach who is not a full-time faculty member. “I said no. Valencia needs a full-time, on-campus football coach.”
This season’s teams was among Marrujo’s better ones. The Tigers won the Empire League championship with a 5-0 league record and were undefeated overall until a loss to Villa Park in the second round of the CIF-SS Southwest Division playoffs. They finished 11-1. He coached many outstanding teams and many outstanding players at Valencia. “I enjoyed all of it to the very end,” Marrujo said.
ONE MORE YEAR
Mission Viejo's Johnson said he plans to coach the Diablos in the 2016 season. That would be his 18th season coaching at Mission Viejo. Johnson previously coached at El Toro and Los Amigos. If the Diablos beat Vista Murrieta on Friday in the West Valley Division championship game, it would be a second-straight undefeated run through the regular season and CIF-SS playoffs. Johnson’s grandson, Brock, the starting quarterback, is in his senior year. So it sets up perfectly that this would be a great way to call it a career.
“No,” Johnson said. “I am coaching next year.” As for this year’s team, there was no single game or event that convinced Johnson this would be a great season. He was confident from the start. “I really liked this team from the beginning,” Johnson said Monday. “We had a tough schedule. Three teams we played are still playing in the finals. Five of our opponents went to the semifinals. We knew from the get-go we had something special here.”
NORTH VS. SOUTH
When La Habra plays San Clemente in the Southwest Division on Friday, the game matches Orange County’s northern-most school, La Habra, against the southern-most school, San Clemente. The Highlanders and Tritons have played each other before, in a pair of nonleague games a few seasons ago.
La Habra coach Frank Mazzotta likes the north-south angle. “I expected if we did our part,” Mazzotta said, “they would be there, too, because they’re so good.” Mazzotta figured the Highlanders had what it takes to get to the championship game because of the way they prepare for every game. “It’s been a great practice team,” he said. “There’s been a high level, every day.”
There can be drama about where CIF-SS championship football games are played. This season is no different.
The Southern Division championship game, Canyon vs. Brea Olinda, is Brea’s home game. Brea has selected its on-campus stadium for the game, which is the school’s right. The stadium holds 4,000 spectators. Canyon representatives spoke with CIF-SS leadership Monday, requesting that CIF-SS consider a change of venue. Canyon administrators said Santa Ana Stadium or Orange Coast College would be preferred venues.
Orange Coast has been the site of the Southern Division final in five of the past six years. The exception was the 2012 game that was played at Angel Stadium as part of a CIF-SS finals tripleheader. The San Clemente vs. La Habra game, the Southwest Division final, will be at Cerritos College. La Habra, the home team and in charge of securing a venue, attempted to work with Cal State Fullerton so that the university’s stadium could be the site, but it had made no progress as of Monday evening.
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STEVE FRYER STAFF WRITER OCRegister
ORANGE * Villa Park’s football team just did something it had not done since the 1960s.The Spartans hope they can do something they have not done since the 1970s. The Spartans beat Valencia, 28-15, in a CIF-Southern Section Southwest Division second-round playoff game Friday night at El Modena High. Villa Park is 12-0 for the first time since 1968. The Spartans will play at La Habra (11-1) in the semifinals next week, with the hopes that leads to their first CIF-SS football championship since 1976. Offensive balance and defensive steadiness were the chief factors in Friday’s win. Junior quarterback Nick Sipe completed 15 of 22 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns. He did make one mistake – an interception returned 78 yards for a touchdown by Mason Paine in the third quarter – but was otherwise precise.
Spartans senior running back Ramon Chaves rushed for 85 yards and two touchdowns, both 2-yard runs in the second quarter. Brennan Corbin had 114 receiving yards, including a 76-yard touchdown catch. Jake Ruiz had five receptions for 67 yards, including a 23-yard scoring reception. Villa Park, which beat Troy, 48-19, in the first round, will try to qualify for its fifth CIF-SS football championship game when it plays the top-seeded Highlanders on Friday. The Spartans’ most recent finals appearance was in 2012, when they lost to Edison in the Southwest Division game at Angel Stadium.
Valencia finished 11-1. The Tigers won the Empire League championship and last week beat University, 27-14, in the first round. Among the other highlights was Coach Mike Marrujo, the Tigers’ coach since 1981, getting his 300th career win. Villa Park coach Dusan Ancich said he was pleased with the outcome and overall performance by the Spartans offense and defense. But, as he sometimes is, Ancich was slightly dismayed by a few details. “We played a good game offensively,” Ancich said. “In the second half we got a little too conservative and put ourselves in some thirdand-long situations. We could have made some better choices and played more efficiently.”
The Spartans took an 8-0 lead in the first quarter on the Sipe-to-Corbin touchdown pass of 76 yards and Chaves’ run for two points. Valencia tied it on a 6-yard screen pass for a touchdown from Tyler Switzer to Darren Sandoval. Switzer passed to Chach Ben-Yisrael for two points to tie it 8-8. Villa Park took the lead for good, 15-8, on Chaves’ first 2-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. After Villa Park recovered a fumble, Chaves’ second scoring run make it 22-8. The Spartans stretched the lead to 28-8 on Sipe’s 23-yard touchdown pass to Ruiz.
Paine provided the only touchdown of the second half on his 76-yard interception return. Villa Park’s defense kept the Tigers offense in check, including a drive-stopping interception by Josh Torres on a pass tipped by teammate Khalil Wilson. It was a winning effort all around for Villa Park, which faces a tough challenge next week. “We just have to tune up,” Ancich said. “We have a talented team. We have a chance to do some good things.”
[ Valencia - Villa Park] Photo Gallery
By Brian Whitehead - OCRegister
PLACENTIA * Valencia needed something. Quarterback Tyler Switzer missed on eight of his first 11 pass attempts, running backs Darren Sandoval and Jahquon Speed mustered minimal gains on the ground, and after punting on their first three possessions, the Tigers turned over the ball on downs deep in enemy territory. Then, Sandoval and Speed got going, and in the second quarter, Switzer ended consecutive drives with touchdown passes.
Valencia built a threescore lead by halftime, and beat visiting University, 37-14, Friday night in the first round of the Southwest Division playoffs. Valencia (11-0) plays Villa Park (11-0) next week in the quarterfinals, at a location to be determined. The Tigers and Spartans, who beat Troy, 48-19, on Friday, are two of the county five unbeaten teams.
We struggled a bit there in the first half Sandoval said. But we picked it up in the second half. I wasn't reading my holes as well as I should've been reading them, but our offensive line kept making great holes all game. Our defense is there. We sometimes just have to work on our offense.
Switzer finished with 181 passing yards, and receiver Jacob Briggs caught a pair of touchdowns. Both Sandoval and Speed rushed for more than 100 yards. Both running backs scored in the third quarter: Speed on a 29-yard run and Sandoval on an 8-yarder. University (8-3) twice cut its deficit to 10 after halftime; Matt Abellaneda and Andre Campbell with touchdowns on consecutive drives. But Valencia answered both scores with points.
It important to come back like that Sandoval said. As we play later in the playoffs, in CIF, we have to prepare for that. We have to play every half like we played the second half tonight.
University quarterback Neil Boudreau passed for 122 yards and connected with seven different receivers. Alex Pourdanesh led all Trojans pass-catchers with 42 receiving yards. Valencia is in the Southwest Division quarterfinals for the second consecutive year. The 2014 Tigers lost to lower-seeded Capistrano Valley, a premature exit Sandoval said will surely fuel this week of practice. Every minute counts he said.
[ Valencia - University] Photo Gallery
By DAN ALBANO OCRegister
PLACENTIA - Valencia showed in the second half Thursday why it is undefeated and a contender in the Southwest Division. The Tigers erupted for 28 consecutive points and forced four turnovers to clinch the Empire League title outright with a 35-14 victory against visiting Pacifica. Valencia (10-0, 5-0) matched its best start since its undefeated season of 1991 and might have sealed the No. 4 seed in the Southwest Division. “I’m very optimistic that we can do pretty well,” Valencia coach Mike Marrujo said of the playoffs. “We have a good team. We have good skill guys. We have a very good defense. I’m hopeful we can play well.”
Valencia’s defense certainly played well in the second half to help the Tigers erase a 14-7 deficit. It was the first time Valencia trailed at halftime. Valencia intercepted three passes and returned a fumble for a touchdown, all after the Tigers tied the score early in the second half on a 50-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tyler Switzerto Chachmoni Ben-Yisrael. Sam Lydic sparked the defensive flurry by intercepting a pass deflected by Jacob Briggs at the Pacifica 44 with 5:45 left in the third. Three plays later, Darren Sandoval scored on a 17-yard touchdown run as the Tigers took their first lead, 21-14.
Sandoval finished with 93 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. Later in third, Briggs returned a fumble forced by defensive lineman Tofi Meleah about 18 yards for a touchdown and a 28-14 lead with 2:15 left in the third. Sandoval then capped an 80-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run with 6:57 left in the fourth. The drive chewed up nearly six minutes. Justin McHale and Alec Sweet also had interceptions for Valencia in the second half. Sweet also added a sack and forced fumble in the first that Meleah recovered. “We were motivated,” said Briggs, who also caught a 3-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal early in the second period. “We’ve never been down before. At halftime, we just needed to pick up our heads.
We just knew we had to get the job done, execute our assignment. ... I’m glad we got that victory.” Pacifica (6-4, 2-3) opened a 14-0 lead in the first half on a 2-yard touchdown run by quarterback Nick Garciaand a 74-yard TD strike from Garcia to Aundre Purnell on a slant. The Mariners could land one of the three at-large berths in the Southwest. "They're a good team," Briggs said of the Mariners.
[ Valencia - Pacifica] Photo Gallery]
By DAN ALBANO OCRegister
Valencia High’s stability again started with Coach Mike Marrujo on Friday and flowed like a bolt of energy through his team. The Tigers’ offense played with the balance. The defense played with it. And at just the right moment, Marrujo injected the extra aggressiveness to push his players even further.
Quarterback Tyler Switzer threw for two touchdowns and ran for another and Valencia’s defense fashioned a shutout in the second half to power the Tigers to a 24-13 victory at Tustin, clinching at least a share of a second consecutive Empire League crown. The Tigers remained perfectly balanced by their standards: 9-0, 4-0. “I think it’s special,” said Switzer, who has 25 TD passes. “I really feel we have a bond. We’re getting better each and every week. Hope to make it far in the playoffs.”
Valencia and its 35th-season coach certainly have the makings of a contender in the Southwest Division after handing Tustin (7-2, 3-1) its first league loss. Tustin is also headed to the CIF playoffs. Marrujo sparked Valencia with an aggressive play call on the game’s opening series. The Tigers capped a 14-play, 65-yard scoring drive with a 4-yard touchdown plunge by Switzer on fourth-and-goal. The Tigers never looked back.
One of Switzer’s own calls paid off in the fourth. He called an audible for a streak route and tossed a 23-yard touchdown pass to Chachmoni Ben-Yisrael as the Tigers opened a 24-13 lead with 10:01 left.
Tustin stayed close thanks to a 41-yard touchdown reception by Jonathan Di Maio on a pass from Sagel Simon and two field goals by Anthony Garduno. including a 38-yarder with one second left in the first half that cut Valencia’s lead to 17-13.
[ Valencia - Tustin] Photo Gallery
CONTRIBUTING WRITER OC Register
Undefeated Valencia remained perfect Saturday night, defeating Empire League rival Cypress 42-14. The Tigers defense, which is allowing 6.5 points per-game, forced four turnovers, two which set them up in the red zone, and held Cypress to 164 total yards and minus-28 yards rushing.
Valencia (8-0, 3-0) built a 21-7 haltime lead, then marched down the field on the first drive of the second half in 10 plays, with Jahquan Speed capping the drive with the second of his three touchdowns. A 34-yard pass from Tyler Switzer to Chochmoni Ben-Yisreal early in the fourth quarter eliminated hopes of a comeback and gave the Tigers a 35-7 lead.
Alex Ashcroft was a bright spot for Cypress (2-6, 0-3), finishing with 192 yards and two touchdowns passing with one interception.
Valencia will face off with a fellow Empire League unbeaten Tustin next week.
[ Valencia - Cypress] Photo Gallery
By TOM CONNOLLY
[ Valencia - Western] Photo Gallery
CONTRIBUTING WRITER OC Register
PLACENTIA * High-powered Valencia delighted its homecoming crowd as the Tigers cruised to 62-8 Empire League victory over Western on Friday night at Valencia High. Darren Sandoval scored two of his three touchdowns in the first quarter as the Tigers scored four times in the first nine minutes of the game. Ronnie Velasquez intercepted a pass on the third play of the game to get the Tigers rolling. Two plays later, Sandoval scored on a 4-yard run to give Valencia 7-0 lead.
Jacob Briggs stepped in front of a Western pass on the Pioneers’ second series and returned it 18 yards for a score. Tyler Switzer completed an 8-yard scoring pass to Mason Paine to extend the lead to 20-0, then Sandoval raced 46 yards for a score as the Tigers surged to a 27-0 lead after the first quarter. Valencia (7-0, 2-0) won its seventh consecutive game and is averaging more than 39 points. The Tigers defense has held opponents to fewer than seven points per game.
Tofi Meleah, Nick Perreira and Justin McHale led a dominant Valencia defense that forced three first-half turnovers and held the Pioneers to negative yardage in the first half. The Tigers kept pushing in the second quarter as Sandoval scored his third touchdown on an 8-yard run. Switzer completed all eight of his passes in the first half, including a second TD pass to Paine. Jahquon Speed (114 yards rushing) capped Valencia’s first-half blitz with a 2-yard TD run that gave the Tigers a 48-0 halftime lead over the Pioneers (1-6, 0-2).
BY DAN ARRITT
CONTRIBUTING WRITER OCRegister
PLACENTIA * Mike Marrujo has never been a fan of individual recognition during his decorated high school coaching career. In his fifth season at Valencia in 1985, his running back broke the Orange County career rushing record, but Marrujo was dead set against stopping the game to honor the feat. So it was no surprise when Marrujo wanted to keep a low profile leading up to his 300th career victory Friday night, a 42-0 win against visiting Kennedy in an Empire League opener. “It’s a team sport,” Marrujo said after the game. “It’s always been that way here at Valencia. We’ve won all those games and we’ve had all those good players and assistants helping me, so it’s been a real team-type deal.”
Marrujo’s in his 35th season at Valencia and 45th straight year coaching high school football overall. He’s been around long enough that he’s getting repeat business. Senior center Warren Garten is the son former Valencia lineman Steve Garten , who shared in Marrujo’s first victory at Valencia in 1981. “He’s a wonderful man,” Steve Garten said. “He really works with the kids. Makes them into men and that’s what it’s all about. Respect, teamwork, individual work, hard work. … Coach Marrujo is a pillar of that.”
Marrujo, who earned 22 of his wins at Pius X in Downey prior to coming to Valencia, joins an elite list of coaches with at least 300 victories. Los Alamitos coach John Barnes has 323 wins and Bob Johnson of Mission Viejo has 321. Marrujo still coaches the game much the way he did in the 1980s. No headset, few gimmicks and plenty of teaching moments, even in the fourth quarter of a one-sided victory, such as Friday night.
Tyler Switzer and Jacob Briggs made sure everyone got a chance to play Friday, hooking up for five touchdown passes in just more than two quarters. Switzer completed 9 of 12 passes for 233 yards, while Briggs finished with eight catches for 215 yards, the final touchdown giving the Tigers (6-0) a 42-0 lead in the opening minute of the third quarter.
In the final minute, Marrujo’s milestone was announced over the public-address system. It went in one of Marrujo’s ears and out the other.
“Honestly, I just wanted to win the league opener,” he said.
[ Valencia - Kennedy] Photo Gallery
“We want to be balanced and we were able to do that tonight,” Marrujo said. “It was a really good way to finish our nonleague schedule. I’m pleased with our effort and we came out OK, healthwise.” The Tigers found as much success through the air. Quarterback Tyler Switzer completed 7 of 10 passes for 208 yards and three touchdowns. Chach Ben-Yisrael was on the receiving end of all three and finished with five catches for 163 yards.
Valencia’s win slows a storybook start for Laguna Hills, which suffered its first loss. Mitch O’Hair, who had been efficient in managing the Hawks’ first four games, was under pressure most of the night and completed just 3 of 13 passes for 55 yards. He also threw his first two interceptions. The Hawks (4-1) totaled 100 offensive yards. Bear Sutton gained 37 yards on seven carries, the bulk of which came in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach. “We just got overmatched tonight,” Hawks coach Bruce Ingalls said. “We were a little mismatched up-front. It’s an eye opener and we can use this to get ready for league play next week.”
Valencia (5-0) set the tone early. On the Tigers’ second play from scrimmage, Switzer connected with Ben-Yisrael for an 87-yard touchdown catch and run. Following a three-and-out by the Hawks, Speed capped a 12-play, 79-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run. In the second quarter, Ben-Yisrael added a 28-yard touchdown catch and Speed pounded in a 2-yard touchdown run with 1:01 left. Speed finished with 11 rushes for 84 yards, and Sandoval added 12 rushes for 98 yards.
Laguna Hills had chances for points in each half. In the second quarter, defensive end Adam Rink clipped Switzer’s arm on a throw and the ball was picked off by Zac Crowe, setting up the Hawks at the Tigers’ 30-yard line. Three plays later, O’Hair was picked off by Mason Paine at the Tigers’ 2-yard line. In the second half, O’Hair took a shot downfield to a wide-open Christian Ferrara, but the pass dropped to the turf, incomplete.
[ Valencia - Laguna Hills] Photo Gallery