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BILL ALKOFER , ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Garden Grove's Ruben Mendoza slips through a tackle by Santa Ana Valley's Juan Medina.

Motivated Garden Grove rolls over Santa Ana Valley

STAFF WRITER

GARDEN GROVE A Garden Grove football program that has averaged almost 12 victories the past four seasons was noticeably absent from the preseason CIF-SS Division 8 poll earlier this week.

“It’s alright,” said Argonauts coach Ricardo Cepeda, his CIF championship ring from 2014 sparkling Thursday night before a season-opening game against visiting Santa Ana Valley.

“We’ll use it as motivation. Our kids have a lot to prove.”

The Argonauts started to build their case behind running back Joseph Camarillo and a big-play defense led by middle linebacker Fitu Lupematasila and safety TJ Taufette.

Camarillo scored two first-half touchdowns on opportunities created by his defense as the four-time defending Garden Grove League champion beat Orange League contender Santa Ana Valley, 43-6.

“It was personal (with the rankings),” said Camarillo, who rushed for 120 yards and scored three touchdowns.

Lupematasila collected two of the Argonauts’ three interceptions, including one returned 45 yards for a touchdown on the opening possession of the second half for a 21-0 lead.

Santa Ana Valley played three quarterbacks in place of junior standout Jason Wilkerson, who recently transferred to Villa Park, Falcons coach Larry Mohr said.

"It's hard," Cepeda said of losing a starting quarterback. "I went through four quarterbacks last year. I know."

Camarillo took a shovel pass on third-and-8 from an under-press Ruben Mendoza and raced 28 yards for the first score with 6:48 left in the first half. The strike came after an interception by Lupematasila near his 20 and a return to his 41.

Camarillo added a 6-yard touchdown run with 1:38 left in the second quarter, capping a quick 52-yard drive. Garden Grove scored after stopping Santa Ana Valley’s Chris Hernandez on fourth-and-1 near midfield. The Argonauts’ substituted lineman Peslao Gauta in for the play and tackled Hernandez in the backfield.

Hernandez finished with 159 yards, including an impressive 32-yard touchdown run to make it 29-6 with 1:33 left in the third.

Earlier in the third, Mendoza tossed a 41-yard touchdown to tight end Wesley Nelson, who juked two defenders en route to the end zone.

Contact the writer: dalbano@scng.com


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