STREAK BREAKERS: Duarte’s Marcus Lewis (2) dives for a touchdown against Azusa in the teams’ Montview League encounter Thursday night. The Falcons won, 40-14, to snap the Aztecs’ 27-game league streak.
Staff photo by Keith Birmingham
By John Honell, Corespondent
LA VERNE - Azusa High School’s 27-game Montview League winning streak came to an end Thursday night.
Duarte broke open a close game late in the first half and went on to score a 40-14 win over the Aztecs at Bonita High School.
“All good things must come to an end,” first-year Falcons coach Jason Martin said. “We knocked ‘em off, but that team won’t be down for long. They’ve got one of the best coaching staffs around. We’re 2-0, but the league, from top to bottom, is real competitive.”
The Falcons (3-2, 2-0) went on an 80-yard, 12-play scoring drive late in the first half that was the turning point in the game. Senior quarterback Denzel Talifero scored on a one-yard quarterback sneak to cap the drive, putting the Falcons ahead, 20-14, with 30 seconds left in the half.
The key play came on the fourth play of the drive. The Falcons went for it on a fourth down and inches from their own 30-yard line.
Talifero got the first down and the Aztecs (2-3, 1-1) committed a personal foul and had a player ejected at the end of a three-yard quarterback sneak.
“That was a huge turning point,” Martin said. “One of the things we’ve been practicing is to keep a level head throughout the game and don’t let the trials and tribulations get to you.”
Talifero rushed for a touchdown, passed for three more and returned an interception 75 yards for another score to put the game out of reach.
The second half was all Falcons as the defense shut down the Aztecs.
“We made a couple of adjustments at halftime,” Martin said. “We didn’t want to get beat by the deep ball. We just weren’t going to get beat deep.”
A coffin-corner kick by James Brants put the Aztecs deep in their own territory, at the 6-yard line, on their first possession of the second half.
“We had to bring James up from the JV,” Martin said. “Our kicker got hurt in practice this week. That’s why we couldn’t kick extra points.”
The Falcons defense, led by Alberto Pina, Isaac Martinez and Talifero, forced a punt from the end zone, giving them a short field when they got the ball.
Talifero hit Marcus Lewis on a 40-yard scoring pass to put the game on ice.
The Aztecs scored on a 90-yard kickoff return by Alex Cota to start the game but couldn’t overcome penalties and turnovers. They were penalized 13 times, including two dead-ball personal fouls.
“We make way too many mistakes to win football games,” Aztecs coach Joe Scherf said. “They were better than we were. They played the best game I’ve seen them play and they deserved to win. We’ll see how our guys step up after a game like this. When you haven’t lost in 27 league games, we’ll see how they respond.”
The Falcons got a boost from senior running back Lewis. He carried the ball 12 times for 51 yards and a touchdown. He also caught two passes for 84 yards and two more touchdowns.
“Marcus did a good job running the ball,” Martin said. “(Tailik) Mason was a little banged up so we gave the ball to Marcus.”
The Falcons defense held the Aztecs to 17 yards rushing in the second half and picked off three passes in a dominating performance.
“Pernell Barnes did a heck of a job off the edge,” Martin said. “Denzel had two picks last week and got another tonight. Collectively, we played well on defense. It was a total team effort.”
The Aztecs were led by Cameron Blackburn, who rushed for 100 yards, 90 of them in the first half. He scored on a one-yard run on the first play of the second quarter to give the Aztecs a 14-6 lead.