By Alex A. Gonzalez
Baldwin Park: The Muir Mustangs controlled the game’s pace Friday night in their 28-7 semifinal win against Baldwin Park at Ted K. Gorrell Stadium behind Jachai Pulley’s two rushing scores and Brandon Valencia’s two passing touchdowns.
With the win, the Mustangs (7-6)(3-2) punch their ticket to the Division 10 CIF-SS finals, where they will host Salesian next week.
“We just came out after watching the film. We had to execute, and we knew it was going to be a big game,” said Pulley after the game. “We did what we’re supposed to do and put up a lot of points. My linemen did a great job today. It started a little slow, but it started opening up in the second half and started getting success.”
Muir got the chilly night started by evenly splitting up their 10-play drive with the pass and run that led them down the field that eclipsed 48 yards. Pulley scored his first rushing score of the night from eight yards out, capping the possession with 5:40 in the first quarter.
They returned to work on their ensuing possession once the Braves (10-3)(3-0) failed to convert on a fourth and short situation. Valencia’s 17-yard toss to Mahki Clark capped the drive midway through the second quarter, and with a successful 2-point conversion by Pulley, the Mustangs took a 14-0 lead late in the second quarter.
The Braves did have an opportunity to score points before the end of the second quarter following an interception. However, Drew Knight struggled to connect with his receivers on their final drive resulting in zero points after 24 minutes of play.
With Muir set to receive the second-half kickoff, their offensive game plan of ground and pound continued as both Pulley, and Clark split the backfield carries that drove them down the field for their third score of the night. Valencia tossed his second touchdown of the night, extending their lead to 21-0 with 2:07 in the third period.
The struggles continued for Baldwin Park on the ensuing kickoff as they failed to field the kickoff, allowing Muir to recover the ball on their 32-yard line. Four plays later, Pulley took the handoff, bounced off the Braves’ defense, and reached the end zone as the third quarter ended.
Baldwin Park was able to avoid the shutout late in the fourth quarter thanks to Isaiah Ariza, who carried the ball into the end zone for their only touchdown of the night.