Fullerton took the opening kickoff, scored on its first drive of the game and led the rest of the way. But the game was still close for a half, with the Hornets holding a modest 21-10 lead at the break until an outburst of five straight touchdowns turned the game into a rout.
And while Byrd was certainly deserving of Most Valuable Player honors for his 179 yards on 14 carries that included touchdown runs of 71 and 57 yards as the Hornets pulled away in the second half, in truth the Fullerton offensive line was the difference. The five starters and two most frequent substitutes average about 321 pounds each and consistently pushed the smaller Cougars out of the way for Hornet ball carriers. In addition to Byrd, Lavoris Johnson rushed for 109 yards on just 9 carries, power back Nick Norman scored 3 touchdowns and David Wesley also scored as the Hornets piled up 384 yards on the ground and 590 yards of total offense.
Fullerton (11-0) needed less than three minutes to take a lead, driving 55 yards in 7 plays with Wesley scoring on a 16-yard run to make it 7-0. Canyons (8-3), however, nearly tied the score, driving deep into Hornet territory on its first drive of the game. But Alex Bernstein stepped in front of a receiver just outside the goal line and intercepted a Tony Dawson pass, keeping the score 7-0.
The Hornets drove past midfield, but faced a 4th down and lined up to punt. However, punter Anthony Martinez, rather than kick the ball, lofted a towering pass to a wide-open Bernstein for a 39-yard play to keep the drive alive. That led to Norman's first touchdown, a one-yard plunge with 2:25 left in the first quarter that made it 14-0.
Canyons got a break when Wesley fumbled and Kevin Guy recovered for the Cougars at the Hornet 25 early in the second quarter. That led to Tony Dawson throwing a 9-yard touchdown pass to Dan Vear that cut the Fullerton lead to 14-7. But the Hornets answered with another long drive, with Norman scoring on another 1-yard plunge to make it 21-7 midway through the second quarter. Canyons got a 32-yard field goal from Eric Kreitz in the final minute of the half to make it 21-10 at the break, and the Cougars seemed ready to make their move as they were slated to receive the kickoff to start the second half.
But the second half belonged to Fullerton from the very beginning. Canyons gained just one first down before having to punt, and on 4th down Wesley atoned for his fumble by blocking Vear's punt attempt, which was compromised by a rolling snap. That led to another Norman touchdown, this one from 2 yards out, that made it 28-10 just 2:14 into the third quarter.
And from there, the onslaught continued. After another - successful - Cougar punt, Fullerton got another score when Byrd broke free for a 71-yard touchdown run that made it 35-10. Then Canyons made one last attempt to get back in the game, driving to the Hornet 20, but finally turned the ball over on downs after an incomplete pass on 4th down. Fullerton then drove 25 yards in 5 plays, with Johnson scoring on a 7-yard run to make it 42-10.
Byrd added another long touchdown run with a 57-yard breakaway early in the fourth quarter to make it 49-10. Then backup quarterback Blaze McKenzie threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to tight end Elijah Balavitch to make it 56-10. Canyons finally stopped the streak of five straight touchdowns when Jake Dashnaw, who relieved Dawson in the fourth quarter, threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Vear in the final minute.
For Fullerton, Byrd captured MVP honors with his spectacular performance, and Johnson also topped the 100-yard rushing mark. Jose Escobar did a fine job managing the game, completing 11 of 14 passes for 122 yards and no interceptions. Defensive end Antoine Turner registered 2 of Fullerton's 7 quarterback sacks and was a visible presence all afternoon, earning Defensive Player of the Game honors. And Bernstein made his presence felt both on defense and on the fake punt play.
For Canyons, Dawson completed 10 of 18 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown, and also rushed 16 times for 34 yards. But he spent much of the afternoon under heavy pressure from the Hornet defensive front. Matt Bowen rushed 21 times for 96 yards and was named Offensive Player of the Game. Vear led all receivers with 4 catches, good for 48 yards and 2 touchdowns, and also did a good job punting with a 40-yard average not counting the block, which was mostly the fault of a poor snap.
With the win, Fullerton improves to 11-0 and wins its 16th straight game heading into the Southern California championship game next Saturday against Riverside. The last time these teams met - on October 12th - Fullerton won 38-36 on a touchdown with 26 seconds remaining. Kickoff is set for 1 pm at Nathan Shapell Stadium on the campus of Yorba Linda HS, and JCFootball.com will be there.
Fullerton Hornets 56, Canyons Cougars 17
Saturday, November 23, 2013 - 1 pm - Shapell Stadium (Yorba Linda HS)
National Bowl - Southern California Semifinal #1
F - Wesley 16 yd run (Boozer kick) 12:04 (7-0)
F - N.Norman 1 yd run (Boozer kick) 2:25 (14-0)
C - Vear 9 yd pass from Dawson (Kreitz kick) 12:55 (14-7)
F - N.Norman 1 yd run (Boozer kick) 5:49 (21-7)
C - FG Kreitz 32 yds 0:55.0 (21-10)
F - N.Norman 2 yd run (Boozer kick) 12:46 (28-10)
F - Byrd 71 yd run (Boozer kick) 8:13 (35-10)
F - Johnson 7 yd run (Boozer kick) 0:07.0 (42-10)
F - Byrd 57 yd run (Boozer kick) 13:36 (49-10)
F - Balavitch 25 yd pass from McKenzie (Boozer kick) 5:51 (56-10)
C - Vear 5 yd pass from Dashnaw (Kreitz kick) 0:55.1 (56-17)
First Downs: Fullerton 23 (10 rush, 11 pass, 2 penalty), Canyons 17 (10 rush, 5 pass, 2 penalty)
Rushes-Yds: Fullerton 48-384, Canyons 38-125
Passing Yds: Fullerton 206, Canyons 114
Comp-Att-Int: Fullerton 14-17-0, Canyons 15-25-1
Return Yds: Fullerton 63, Canyons 146
Sacks-Yds: Fullerton 7-22, Canyons 2-18
Fumbles-Lost: Fullerton 3-1, Canyons 1-0
Penalties-Yds: Fullerton 13-100, Canyons 9-51
Time of Possession: Fullerton 29:58, Canyons 30:02
Rushing: F 27-Byrd 14-179, 5-Johnson 9-109, 30-Douglas 8-66, 49-Wesley 5-25, 34-N.Norman 8-19, 12-Mroz 1-3, 24-Sitagata 1-3, 9-McKenzie 1-(-9), 17-Escobar 1-(-9); C 5-Bowen 21-96, 10-Dawson 16-34, 12-Dashnaw 1-(-5)
Passing: F 17-Escobar 11-14-0-122; 9-McKenzie 2-2-0-45, 1 TD, 59-Martinez 1-1-0-39; C 10-Dawson 10-18-1-90, 1 TD; 12-Dashnaw 5-7-0-24, 1 TD
Receiving: F 2-Pleasant 3-40, 8-Daniels 3-28, 11-Longoria 3-17, 82-Sanders 2-37, 13-Bernstein 1-39, 83-Balavitch 1-25, 86-Reece-Scott 1-20; C 7-Vear 4-48, 11-Tucker 3-16, 2-Washington 3-10, 13-Strange 2-27, 8-Feyh 1-9, 5-Bowen 1-2, 9-Gipson 1-2
Interceptions-Ret Yds: F 13-Bernstein 1-14; C none
Fumble Rec: F none; C 53-Guy 1-0
Sacks-Yds: F 97-Turner 2-7, 31-Talifero 1-5, 85-Lewis 1-5, 93-Clark 1-2, 95-McKinnon 1-2, 40-Stephens 1-1; C 52-Jacobs 2-18
Punters: F 59-Martinez 2-32.0 avg; C 7-Vear 6-40.0 avg + 1 blocked
Kick Returns: F 5-Johnson 1-17, 46-Main 1-11, 23-Branton 1-10; C 11-Tucker 6-131, 5-Bowen 1-15
Punt Returns: F 49-Wesley 1-10, 20-Toomey 0-5, 8-Daniels 1-0, 2-Pleasant 3-(-3); C none
Missed FG: none
Notes: MVP: Ryan Byrd, Fullerton. Offensive Player of the Game: Matt Bowen, Canyons. Defensive Player of the Game: Antoine Turner, Fullerton. Fullerton was #1 seed, entered ranked #2 in the nation and improves to 11-0 while Canyons entered ranked #17 in nation and finishes 8-3. After Fullerton scored its 1st TD, Canyons drove deep into Fullerton territory but Bernstein intercepted a Dawson pass just outside the goal line. Martinez' pass to Bernstein was on a fake punt play and led to Fullerton's 2nd TD. Guy's fumble recovery led to Canyons' 1st TD. Wesley blocked the punt and that led to Fullerton's 4th TD. Fullerton's OL (starters 51-Hobbs, 62-Palaki, 69-Baldwin, 77-Beyer, 79-Ibanez & frequent subs 52-Hillin and 72-M.Norman) average 321 lbs apiece and was absolutely dominant.