The best thing Bishop Diego High had going for it on Saturday was the punting of Adam Luckhurst.
But that was also the thing that kick-started a big night for Camarillo’s Jesse Valenzuela.
The senior running back broke off back-to-back touchdown runs of 94 and 97 yards after getting pinned at his own goal line, leading the unbeaten Scorpions to a 34-0 football victory at La Playa Stadium.
“I love having my back against the wall so I can go out there and do big things for my team,” Valenzuela said. “I was pumped.”
Camarillo (7-0, 2-0 Camino League), ranked No. 1 in the CIF-Southern Section’s Division 4 out-gained the Cardinals (3-4, 0-2) in total yards, 500 to 87.
Valenzuela, who ran for three TDs altogether, got 264 of the Scorpions’ yards on 15 rushing attempts. Quarterback James McNamara passed for another 188 yards, completing 12 consecutive passes at one point.
“Their execution offensively and defensively was just solid,” Bishop coach Tom Crawford said. “They had the bye week to also prepare and get healthy.
“I think their quarterback played lights-out and has all season long. They have enough versatility and athleticism to keep you off balance.”
Valenzuela’s big night actually began when he called off a Camarillo punt to start the game. Bishop figured that it had stopped Camarillo’s first possession, getting a pass deflection from Matthew Bribiesca and a pursuit tackle by Marcus Chan. The Scorpions lined up to punt on fourth down with three yards to go from their own 33-yard line.
But Valenzuela, the up-back in the Scorpions’ punt formation, noticed that the Cardinals had overloaded one side of the line to rush the punter.
“If I see that we’re out-numbered on one side and that they’re weak on the other, I’m taking it no matter what,” Valenzuela said. “I looked around and went, ‘Lancer! It’s go!’”
He took the snap and ran 26 yards to a first down at the Bishop 41. Eight plays later, he scored on a nine-yard run.
Luckhurst, who averaged 44 yards on five punts, dropped his first kick on Camarillo’s six-yard line. But Valenzuela bounced the next play around right end, out-racing Bishop’s secondary down the sideline for his 94-yard TD.
The Scorpions got the ball back just two minutes later when Luckhurst’s 45-yard punt was downed at the two-yard line.
“My coach asked me, ‘Do you need a breather?’” Valenzuela said. “I was like, ‘No.’ So he said, ‘OK, I’ll get you on the next play after you score.’”
He scored on the next play, dashing through a gaping hole on the right side for a 97-yard TD.
“When he hits the hole and gets a seam, he’s like a track star, in all honesty,” Crawford said. “Unfortunately, we had them pinned down with great kicking by Adam Luckhurst, and then just gave up the big play.
“Once that guy got into space, we didn’t have anybody who could quite catch him.”
McNamara, who scrambled for a 14-yard TD run late in the second quarter, also completed his last 11 passes of the first half. They included a 22-yard scoring strike to Donovan Davis with just 28 seconds left before halftime to extend Camarillo’s lead to 34-0.
By the time the first half had ended, the Scorpions had outgained the Cardinals 429 yards to 31 in total offense.
The second half, however, was a different story. Bishop’s defense regrouped, holding the Scorpions to just 71 more yards and no more TDs.
“They kept their starters in until the end of the fourth quarter, so I thought our guys should gain some confidence knowing that there are stretches when we compete pretty darned well on defense,” Crawford said. “Offensively, we’re just kind of sputtering along, so we’ve got to get that corrected.”
Camarillo’s best chance in the second half came when it drove to a first down at the Bishop four-yard line. Chan, however, jumped in front of a Scorpion receiver to intercept McNamara in the end zone on the next play.
“The nice thing about Marcus is that he sees the game really well, and he kind of understands what teams are trying to do,” Crawford said of his sophomore defender. “I thought he baited the quarterback a little bit with that interception.
“He’s been very, very steady for us, particularly on the defensive side, and is kind of a stabilizing force for us.”
Chan also scored a touchdown on a 23-yard pass from Jackson Haskell in the closing minute, but the play was called back by a holding penalty.
“I was pleased with our guys that they kept playing,” Crawford said. “I thought we played pretty darned well in the second half.
“As we said to them here at the end, we just have to keep working and think about improving, and try to do that on a daily basis, and not worry so much about scores.”