By Ron Vrooman
(Alhambra) – Quarterback Noah Rodriguez completed 13 of 28 passes for 226 yards and five touchdowns to lead Alhambra to a 49-21 first-round playoff victory over the visiting Diamond Bar Brahmas on Friday night.
Three of Rodriguez’s TD passes went to wide receiver Vito Russell, who caught four throws for a total of 41 yards, and slot man Kody Chuang made four catches for 101 yards and a score.
The undefeated Moors, who improved their record to 11-0, will go on the road for a quarterfinal game against 9-2 Calvary Chapel of Santa Ana this coming Friday night. The site of the game hasn’t yet been determined.
The Moors’ win over the Brahmas wasn’t as easy as the final score might suggest. Alhambra fell behind, 14-0, in the first quarter when a turnover on downs and a fumble led to two touchdown passes by Diamond Bar quarterback Dylan Karanickolas.
Then, after the Moors scored four touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 27-14 lead, Karanickolas fired a 52-yard TD pass to Liam McCabe to narrow the gap to 27-21 going into halftime.
Alhambra quickly regained the momentum when John Ortega caught the Brahmas’ short second-half kickoff on the fly and raced 58 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. Russell then ran for a two-point conversion to make the score 35-21 with 11:50 left in the third quarter.
Just over a minute later, the Moors increased their lead to 42-21 on an 11-yard scoring pass from Rodriguez to Chuang. That touchdown came two plays after free safety Tyler Gonzalez intercepted a Karanickolas pass to give Alhambra the ball at the Diamond Bar 16-yard line.
The Moors scored their final points on the first play of the fourth quarter, when Rodriguez hit wide receiver Vidhan Gurung with a nine-yard TD pass.
Alhambra’s defense managed to withstand the Brahmas’ passing onslaught, coming up with three interceptions and holding Diamond Bar to a net of six yards on the ground. Karanickolas, a senior, completed 35 of 56 passes for 339 yards and all three of the Brahmas’ touchdowns.
Diamond Bar finished its season with a record of 5-6.