San Joaquin Memorial rolls over Tulare 69-25 to land in state championship
San Joaquin Memorial High is headed to the state football championship.
Sparked by Josh Kelly’s two scores and two interceptions in the first half, the Panthers amassed 10 touchdowns and rolled past Tulare Union 69-25 in the CIF Northern California Division 2-A final Saturday at Bob Mathias Stadium.
It was a matchup between two unbeaten Central Section champs, with Memorial having won the the D-3 title and Tulare Union the D-2 crown.
“Our goal was to come out strong and that’s what our team did,” Kelly said. “For me, to get two picks was a real big momentum push.
“When we got to the locker room (at halftime), we were telling each other to put our foot on the gas and come out strong and continue to play how we know how to play.”
Memorial (14-0) moves on to face Lawndale in the state championship game Dec. 15, scheduled for 4 p.m. at Cerritos College.
And if Saturday’s regional final was an indication of how Memorial will play next week — the 69 points are the most by the Panthers this season, just besting the 68 in the section semifinals — Memorial could be tough to beat.
“Excited for our guys for making that next step,” said Memorial coach Anthony Goston, whose Panthers were eliminated in the regional final a year ago. “It was a lot of fun.
“We’ve never been so far in our history and to be able to do this for our school, for our community, it means so much. Getting there and winning it would be an awesome thing.”
Tulare Union was in the game late in the first quarter, scoring a touchdown that cut Memorial’s lead to 14-12.
But then Memorial went off for five touchdowns in the final 14 minutes of the first half and built a 49-25 lead at the break.
Will Jacobs had a 99-yard interception return and Alec Trujillo hit Mac Dalena down the middle for a 12-yard touchdown with 23 seconds remaining to highlight Memorial’s first-half barrage
Trujillo said, “we didn’t play our perfect game” because of a miscue in the first half.
“We had some mistakes we have to fix,” he said. “We were going for it on fourth down and needed a yard and we had a bad snap. We just can’t have that type of stuff going into the state championship.”
The Panthers then didn’t allow a point in the second half to secure the regional title.
Memorial wide receiver Jalen McMillan, who had two touchdowns, reflected on what it would mean to win a state championship.
“It would change the program,” he said. “We used to be on the bottom, but now we’re on the top and it’s just all the work we put in, all the hours … it’s a great thing and amazing.”
San Joaquin Memorial 69, Tulare Union 25
Memorial (14-0) 14 35 7 13 -- 69
Tulare Union (13-1) 12 13 0 0 -- 25
T: Willie James 24 pass from Nathan Lamb (kick blocked)
M: Leonard Glass 30 run (Mac Dalena kick)
M: Josh Kelly 50 pass from Alec Trujillo (Dalena kick)
T: Lamb 2 run (pass failed)
M: Kelly 4 pass from Trujillo (Dalena kick)
M: Dalena 13 pass from Trujillo (Dalena kick)
M: Glass 3 run (Dalena kick)
M: Eric Hirata 4 run (Dalena kick)
T: David Dailey 50 pass from Lamb (Ezequiel Sanchez kick)
T: Randy Jordan 43 pass from Lamb (run failed)
M: Dalena 20 pass from Trujillo (Dalena kick)
M: Jalen McMillan 20 pass from Trujillo (Dalena kick)
M: McMillan 13 pass from Trujillo (Dalena kick)
M: Will Jacobs 99 interception return (kick failed)
RUSHING: Memorial, Glass 10-63, Hirata 8-61, Atier Butler 2-13, Trujillo 2-(-11). Tulare, Dailey 8-45, Lamb 5-(-2).
PASSING: Memorial, Trujillo 25-36-0-429. Tulare, Lamb 24-40-3-367.
RECEIVING: Memorial, Dalena 7-107, Kelly 6-173, McMillan 5-93, T.J. Hall 4-30, Glass 2-27, Hirata 1-(-1). Tulare, James 7-103, Julian Espinoza 7-75, Jordan 5-108, Dailey 4-71, Darius Baker 1-10.