By Tony Solorzano
(Pasadena) – A potential upset turned onto a rout as Muir claimed their fourth Pacific League Championship in the last eight years and their first title since 2008 as they ended the regular season with a 37-7 win over Pasadena to win the 66th Annual Turkey Tussle, Thursday night at the Rose Bowl.
The rivalry, dating back to the late 1940’s when both high schools were known as “Junior Colleges,” once again went to the Mustangs (7-3, 7-0), who’ve beaten the Bulldogs (1-9, 1-6) for the Victory Bell for the 14th straight time and 16th time in the last 17 years, including a 20-20 tie in the 1998 Tussle.
“Phase Two of our plans was achieved, we went 7-0 in league play. I told you we’d be very disappointed if we had lost a league game this year,” said Coach Hardy after the game. “We’ve been concentration on cutting down on stupid penalties, we managed to settle down our discipline.”
Although the Mustangs were heavily favored, the Bulldog defense held firm on the first drive by the Mustangs, forcing kicker Jorge Castro to boot a 29-yard field goal with 7:45 left in the opening quarter. Both teams would trade drives for the rest of the quarter and into the second.
In the second, Mustang quarterback Josh Muema-Washington committed two rare mistakes as he was intercepted twice by the Bulldogs’ Brian Williams. The second interception, a pass attempt to Lamarr McDaniels, was picked off by Williams at the 21-yard line and run back for a touchdown with 5:15 left in the half. That would be the Bulldogs’ only score of the night.
On the ensuing drive, Muema-Washington used his throwing prowess, completing four of six passes including three passes for first downs in a 10-play, 58-yard drive that was capped by a five-yard run by Tyshawn Goodman to put the Mustangs back in the lead 10-7, with 1:16 left. The Mustangs would get the ball back a minute later, after a punt attempt by Simon Simental was blocked and recovered on the Bulldogs’ 24-yard line with 15 second left. The Mustangs needed only 8 seconds as Muema-Washington connected from 12 yards out with Mark Samuels putting the Mustangs up 17-7 as the half expired.
In the third, the Mustangs increased the lead midway through the third, as Muema-Washington closed out another 10-play drive with a 22-yard strike to McDaniels, increasing the lead to 24-7 with 6:50 left in the period. Less than four mintues later, after forcing the Bulldogs to punt from deep in their own territory, Muema-Washington connected for a third score, this time to Jasper Iheaso for a 40-yard score, increasing the lead to 31-7 with 3:15 left.
The Mustangs closed out the scoring late in the fourth. After Muema-Washington’s pass attempt on fourth-and-four went through the hands of both McDaniels and Taeon Mason in the end zone, the Bulldogs had a second punt blocked, this time in the end zone, which was recovered by Miguel Quinones for the touchdown.
Although the two-point conversion attempt by Lawrence Lopez fell short, the Mustangs had a 37-7 lead. As the remaining 4:14 ran out on the Bulldogs’ final drive, the Mustangs made a dead run to the South end zone as the where the Victory Bell sat under guard by Muir’s Jr. ROTC.
Muema-Washington completed 22 of 36 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns. He was intercepted twice and was sacked once for a 17-yard loss and ran the ball six times for 21 yards. The Mustang ground game saw limited action, combining for 73 yards on 28 carries, the longest coming on a 28-yard run in the fourth by Demetrious Newborn.
The Bulldogs were shackled offensively, being held to just three offensive first downs throughout the game. Quarterback Elijah Trejo completed only five of 10 pass attempts for 32 yards, he wasn’t intercepted but was sacked twice for a loss of 17 yards. The Bulldog rush offense was almost non-existent, as five rushers, including Trejo, combined for 50 yards on 24 carries.
The Mustangs will await the announcement of the Southeast Division playoff brackets on Sunday afternoon to learn where they will open the first round next Friday.