Tustin's Tyler Noble runs for the first touchdown of the game as Pacifica's Mathew Estrada tries to stop him during Friday's Empire League game at Bolsa Grande High. Noble rushed for 192 yards and three touchdowns.

Tustin's big plays put away Pacifica


GARDEN GROVE – Tyler Noble ran for 147 of his 192 yards on three long touchdowns as big plays powered Tustin to an easier-than-anticipated 35-15 triumph over Pacifica on Friday night at Bolsa Grande High, setting up an expected showdown next week against Valencia for the Empire League title.

Alema Pilimai returned an interception 76 yards for another score and Richard Lujan recovered a fumble in the end zone for the Tillers (7-1 overall, 3-0 Empire), who are ranked sixth in the CIF-SS Southwest Division.

Nick Garcia completed 20 of 47 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown and ran for another to lead the resurgent 10th-ranked Mariners (5-3, 1-2), whose bid for their first playoff berth since 2010, harmed with last week’s loss to Kennedy, took a serious tumble. They’ll likely have to beat Western and fourth-ranked Valencia to reach the postseason.

Despite a makeshift lineup that included five sophomore starters, Tustin took control early. Noble scored twice on 42-yard runs to open a 21-3 advantage just before halftime, then raced 63 yards on Tustin’s first possession of the second half to effectively put Pacifica away.

“I would say finally some of our seniors woke up and made some plays,” said Tustin coach Winter Welz, who was unhappy with his team’s play in a one-point win over Cypress last week. “Alema had the interception return, which really opened the game up, and he was making some tackles all over the field. He did great today.”

Pilimai had two interceptions and nearly grabbed a third as the Tillers prevented Pacifica from getting many points from its offense, which totaled 335 yards, 78 more than Tustin, and 22 first downs.

Welz, who has seen eight starters hurt since the start of spring practice, went with a younger lineup after injuries to linebacker R.J. Villamar (torn anterior cruciate ligament) and running back/safety De Von Anderson (bruised ankle), and he was happy with the results.

“I thought our sophomores played lights out tonight,” he said.

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