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MICHAEL GOULDING, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Pacifica quarterback Nick Garcia plunges to the 1-yard line against Westminster on Friday night. Garcia rushed for four TDs and passed for two more.

Pacifica states its case, repeatedly

STAFF WRITER

GARDEN GROVE – Pacifica felt underappreciated by CIF pollsters going into its game against CIF-ranked Westminster on Friday.

After a dominating performance, the Mariners should be getting more attention in the Southwest Division and certainly from Empire League opponents.

Quarterback Nick Garcia rushed for four touchdowns and threw for two other scores as the Mariners defeated Westminster, 67-21, at Bolsa Grande.

Pacifica, unranked in the Southwest Division, improved to 4-1. The Mariners lost a close game against Garden Grove, which Westminster – ranked second in the Southern Division – edged in its season opener.

“It’s out of our hands. I think we deserve it,” Pacifica first-year coach Vinnie Lopez said of the rankings. "Nobody outside this locker room is believers. We're going to shock the world and make believers.”

Pacifica stated its case against Westminster (4-1), well aware that the Lions were a common opponent with Garden Grove.

Garcia ran 18 times from the Mariners’ four-receiver spread attack, racking up 128 yards. The senior had touchdown runs of 2, 9, 14 and 2 yards.

Pacifica running back Marcus Tolbert rushed for 105 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown run, on 14 carries.

Garcia showed off his arm in the second half with touchdown passes of 28 and 27 yards to Matthew Moslenko.

After losing a fumble on their first possession, the Mariners scored on nine consecutive possessions.

"It was a must-win and I definitely think we proved a point,” said Garcia, who completed 8 of 10 passes for 88 yards.

Pacifica’s defense forced three second-half fumbles, including two on kickoff coverage. The Mariners’ special teams stood out early as Aundree Purnell returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown.

Pacifica's defense also kept in-check Westminster dual-threat quarterback Matt Dinh and running back Michael Gurrola, though receiver Isayah Anderson grabbed six receptions for 96 yards.

Jake Eckert helped pace the Mariners' defense with two sacks

“They’ve been rapidly improving but we also helped their cause,” Westminster coach Ted McMillen said.

Pacifica finished 2-8 the past two seasons but in the spring landed Lopez, an ex-assistant at Rancho Alamitos, after his turnaround tenure at El Rancho of Pico Rivera. Linebacker Jacob Handley said Lopez has been the biggest factor for the Mariners’ start.

“It’s got to be our coach,” Handley said. “Our coach has got us a great offense, great defense. ... We just do the simple things. We don’t make a whole lot of big plays. We just dominate games.”

Pacifica scored 20 points in the second quarter to lead, 34-14, at halftime.

The Mariners made the Lions pay for struggles on consecutive punts, scoring two touchdowns in a span of about 2 1/2 minutes.

Leading 20-14 in the second, Pacifica started a series at the Westminster 28 after a punt of minus-1 yard with 7:14 left in the quarter. Garcia ran the ball on four consecutive plays, including a 9-yard touchdown, with 5:56 left in the second quarter.

Pacifica stopped a fake punt on the Lions’ next possession, giving the Mariners the ball at the Westminster 32. Three plays later, Garcia scored on a 14-yard run.

Pacifica opens the Empire League play Thursday against Cypress at Bolsa Grande while Westminster plays host to rival Ocean View on Friday.

Contact the writer: dalbano@ocregister.com


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