Despite having a reputation as a team with a fast-paced, high-powered passing offense, it was Green Valley’s rushing attack that made the difference Friday.
The Gators rushed for 270 yards, and scored 21 straight points in the second half on the way to a 49-26 win at Foothill.
Green Valley (5-4, 3-1 Southeast League) will host Las Vegas next Friday in a Sunrise Region quarterfinal.
“It’s exciting for our guys,” said Green Valley head coach Brian Castro. “Anytime you have an opportunity to play at home at least one more time, it’s a great thing.”
Green Valley led 28-20 at halftime, but the Gators took control in the second half, outgaining the Falcons 175-89.
On Green Valley’s first possession of the third quarter, the Gators went on a 10-play, 61-yard drive, keyed by a 24-yard run by quarterback A.J. Amelburu. Amelburu then capped the drive with a 9-yard TD run that pushed the lead to 35-20 with 7:38 left in the quarter.
“The (offensive) line was pretty much dominating most of the night,” said Amelburu, who ran for two scores and threw for another. “We just got the defense confused and overpowered. So when we got the holes, I just hit them.”
Amelburu, who added a 10-yard TD run in the fourth quarter, rushed for 80 yards on 10 carries, and threw for another 168 yards for Green Valley.
Castro said having success in the ground game was a nice development for his team.
“We have been wanting to run the ball better,” said Castro. “Our guys really did that tonight, and that helped out the passing game. That is exciting to see for our team.”
Green Valley jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter behind a 4-yard TD run by C.J Araujo and a 19-yard scoring run by Kawika Jones, but three-first half turnovers kept the Gators from taking control.
Then in the final 2:23 of the second quarter, the teams took turns to score four touchdowns combined.
Araujo’s second TD run of the first half — a 10-yard jaunt — helped Green Valley jump to a 20-6 lead.
But Foothill (6-3, 2-2) answered in just two plays on the next drive. Brandon Hargis won a jump ball on the sideline at the Falcon 45 on a pass from Devon Mueller, and then turned and raced to the end zone to complete the 74-yard touchdown play with 1:46 left in the half.
Green Valley answered on the ensuing drive with its own 74-yard TD pass, as Amelburu connected with Brayon Williams down the middle of the field to push the lead to 28-12.
Foothill countered again with just 23 seconds left in the half, as Hargis hauled in a 37-yard Mueller pass for a TD, and Mueller followed up by running in the 2-point conversion to trim Green Valley’s lead to 28-20.
“(Foothill) made some good adjustments in the second quarter and we blew some things,” said Castro. “But we talked to our guys at halftime, and we made the plays in the third quarter. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Justice Jackson rushed for 99 yards on 30 carries for Foothill, which will open the playoffs next Friday at Silverado.
Kawika Jones had 13 carries for 101 yards and a touchdown for the Gators. Williams finished with six receptions for 94 yards for Green Valley.
Amelburu said he was especially happy to pull off such a big win on a rival’s field.
“It’s awesome. This is a big one for me, because I know a lot of kids at this school,” said Amelburu. “And now I’m excited for getting a home playoff game.”