BLOOMINGTON ---- The Paloma Valley High offense used three fourth quarter touchdowns, and the Wildcat defense shut down a Bloomington offense that had been averaging 30 points a game in cruising to a 38-14 victory Friday.
"Our defense has been playing great all season," Paloma Valley head coach Bert Esposito said. "They had just been on the field a long time in our games and tonight our offense came through."
Leading 17-6 after three quarters, the Wildcat offense came to life in the fourth quarter. After an interception by Nico Caramella gave Paloma Valley the ball at the Bloomington 31-yard line, the Wildcats took five plays, culminating on a 9-yard touchdown run by Tim Stewart with just over 11 minutes left.
"(At halftime) I gave the offense a (talk)," Esposito said. "I can't tell you what I said, but I can tell you right now sometimes kids need a good kick in the butt and my kids responded well."
Bloomington tried to stay in the game and cut the Wildcat lead to 24-14 on the ensuing kick off when the Bruins Alex Cruz ran up the middle, before cutting outside and going 97 yards for a touchdown.
"I wasn't happy on that play because we missed a few tackles," Esposito said.
Bloomington's defense held the Wildcats to a three-and-out on the next drive, but when Paloma Valley's Anthony Johnston was back to punt, a Bloomington defender ran into him, giving the Wildcats the ball back and a first down at the Bruins 35-yard line.
Eight plays later, Ladarius Carter rumbled 4 yards up the middle, carrying four Bloomington defenders with him into the end zone.
"(That play) was the killer for us tonight," Bloomington coach Tommy Conner said. "It gave them a jump and took the wind out of our team and you can't give a good team like Paloma Valley a free first down."
The Wildcats added one more touchdown late, when, with just less than three minutes left in the game, Johnston caught a 26-yard touchdown pass across the middle from Logan Tutwiler.
"This is a good win for us because it gives us confidence heading into league play next week," Esposito said.
Paloma Valley's defense held the Bruins to 151 yards total offense, including holding the Bloomington offense to eight yards and one first down in the second half. Sheldon Larson had two sacks and Caleb Ennis added another to lead the Wildcat defense.
"Our defense hasn't been the problem this year," Esposito said. "We had a little trouble early, but the kids made the adjustment and just shut down (Bloomington) in the second half."
Tutwiler led the Wildcats, throwing for 196 yards and three touchdowns and Patrick Santhavisouk caught nine passes for 110 yards and two of those touchdowns. Stewart added 114 yards and one touchdown in leading Paloma Valley to 389 total offense.
"They are a really good, young football team," Connor said. "I am surprised they came in here with only one win because they just kicked us around on our field."