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Liles makes sure Orange Lutheran captures Surf City title
HUNTINGTON BEACH – It was a situation all too familiar for Orange Lutheran in the final seconds of the Surf City Passing Tournament championship game against JSerra at Huntington Beach High on Saturday.
Just like in their loss to the Lions in last season’s Trinity League game, the Lancers trailed by less than a touchdown with time left for just one play. Again like last season, that play was a heave toward the end zone and then-junior receiver Austin Liles waiting for the ball in a crowd.
“Last year … I couldn’t come down with the ball,” Liles said. “So I was just trying to get that ball again, man. I wasn’t going to let the same ending happen.”
Liles fought off the defenders and pulled in Ryan Hilinski’s pass at the bottom of the pile for the title-winning touchdown to defeat JSerra, 26-22, and send Orange Lutheran players streaming from the sideline.
“It was of those fortunate things (where) we made a play at the end,” Orange Lutheran coach Chuck Petersen said. “The irony is we’ll see them again, and every game we play them it goes down to the wire like last year.”
It was an all-around victory for OLu as the defense made a big stop, as it had all day racking up interceptions, to give the offense a shot to win.
“Way, way beyond where we were this time last year with that group," Petersen said. "We’ve got a lot of confidence. Most of those kids played a year ago, so there’s a confidence and a swagger to them maybe they didn’t have last year.”
Both teams traded scores and a pair of interceptions to set up a 20-20 tie where JSerra took the lead from an unlikely source as back-up-quarterback-turned-safety Connor Bledsoe snagged an interception.
The pick put the Lions ahead 22-20 and put effective quarterback Matt Robinson and the offense on the field with a chance to seal the win.
The Lancers forced a three-and-out to give the offense the opportunity with just one minute remaining.
Hilinksi, a 6-foot-3 and 215-pound sophomore, looked poised all day in commanding an offensive going through a philosophical transition from an option scheme to a more balanced attack.
“At first, it was kind of a rough transition, but we’re all getting it now,” Liles said. “There’s a bunch of different moving parts and everything, a bunch of different formation shifts, but we’re all getting pretty used to it now.”
Hilinksi’s favorite target of the day was senior Stan Berryhill. The two hooked up for the first three touchdowns in the title game.
While Orange Lutheran’s skill group won the passing title, the lineman were busy winning in the weight room taking the bench and leg press competitions. The Lancers finished second overall and in the tug-of-war.
“Any time you have a chance to compete and a chance to win, as long as you do it the right way, that’s important too,” Petersen said. “I’m not going to apologize for that.”
OILERS TAKE LINEMAN TITLE
Orange Lutheran took the lineman weight room, but it was the home team, Huntington Beach, that took down the Lancers in the tug-of-war and won the overall lineman competition.
The Oilers were solid in the weight room and finished a close third in the hot dog eating competition. Huntington Beach was one of three teams, along with the winner Dana Hills and Santa Ana, to finish all 10 hot dogs in under the five-minute time limit.
Dana Hills ate its allotment the quickest to win the contest and was fifth in the final rankings. Tesoro was fourth overall.
TESORO STILL WEIGHING QB OPTIONS
Replacing Devon Modster wasn’t going to be an easy task for Tesoro this season no matter the circumstances, but the Titans have several options.
Junior Hunter Cifuentes is one of three candidates. He has been joined in the competition for the job by two recent transfers from Mission Viejo, juniors Chase Petersen and Aaron Angelos.
All three took reps in Tesoro’s games Saturday including its loss to JSerra, 24-0, in the semifinals, and a loss to league rival San Clemente in the third-place game.
“We don’t have the consistency we need just yet,” Tesoro coach Matt Poston said. “They’ll make a great play, then they’ll make a really bad play. All of them. We need someone to come up and just start making the right decisions all the time, instead of just two-thirds of the time.”
When asked if the quarterback competition was even, Poston said not necessarily and that they’re still monitoring the progress.
Orange Lutheran, JSerra, San Clemente and Tesoro, in that order, made up the championship bracket in the passing tournament.
Dana Hills, Santa Ana, Huntington Beach and Pacifica finished in the eighth through 11th places.