Aliso Niguel football finishes strong, earns win over Pacifica

  • Aliso Niguel’s Kyle Robertson, left, scores a touchdown over tackle by Pacifica defenders during a nonleague game at Aliso Niguel in Aliso Viejo on Friday, September 14, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

  • Pacifica team celebrate Bryan Leonard’s touchdown during a nonleague game at Aliso Niguel in Aliso Viejo on Friday, September 14, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

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  • Aliso Niguel’s Max Carvalho tries to sprint over tackle by Pacifica’s Joe Meza during a nonleague game at Aliso Niguel in Aliso Viejo on Friday, September 14, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

  • Pacifica’s Sean Blake celebrate after scoring a touchdown during a nonleague game at Aliso Niguel in Aliso Viejo on Friday, September 14, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

  • Pacifica’s Bryan Leonard, right, tries to sprint past Aliso Niguel’s Kyle Thomas during a nonleague game at Aliso Niguel in Aliso Viejo on Friday, September 14, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

  • Aliso Niguel’s Rob Castellano, left, tackles Pacifica’s Sean Blake during a nonleague game at Aliso Niguel in Aliso Viejo on Friday, September 14, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

  • Aliso Niguel student section stands up for the National Anthem before a nonleague game against Pacifica at Aliso Niguel in Aliso Viejo on Friday, September 14, 2018. Aliso Niguel is allegedly had problems with racist signs and comments during last week’s game against Santa Ana. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

  • Pacifica’s Danny Ortega, left, catches a pass over Aliso Niguel’s Chase Johnston during a nonleague game at Aliso Niguel in Aliso Viejo on Friday, September 14, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

  • Pacifica’s Danny Ortega, left, celebrates his touchdown with Josiah Washington during a nonleague game at Aliso Niguel in Aliso Viejo on Friday, September 14, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

  • Pacifica’s Sean Blake throws a pass during a nonleague game at Aliso Niguel in Aliso Viejo on Friday, September 14, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

  • Aliso Niguel players break a banner as they enter the game during a nonleague game against Pacifica at Aliso Niguel in Aliso Viejo on Friday, September 14, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

  • Pacifica’s Josiah Washington sprints during a nonleague game at Aliso Niguel in Aliso Viejo on Friday, September 14, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

  • Aliso Niguel head coach Kurt Westling watches his players during a nonleague game against Pacifica at Aliso Niguel in Aliso Viejo on Friday, September 14, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

  • Pacifica head coach Vinnie Lopez watches his players during a nonleague game at Aliso Niguel in Aliso Viejo on Friday, September 14, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

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ALISO VIEJO – Aliso Niguel had plenty of excuses for playing poorly through the first half and into the third quarter Friday night, but Coach Kurt Westling said none were related to off-the-field distractions.

The No.19 Wolverines regrouped in a powerful way against No. 25 Pacifica, erased a 15-point third-quarter deficit and pulled away for a 41-28 victory at Aliso Niguel High.

It was Aliso Niguel’s first game since its students were accused of alleged racist behavior during a game against visiting Santa Ana last week.

Westling said his team’s slow start wasn’t related to the distractions stemming from last week’s game.

“We would like to think we’re above that,” he said. “It wasn’t about football. The two football teams last week got along great. The football teams here tonight respecting each other, coaching staffs do, so all we did was focus on Pacifica.”

Aliso Niguel (5-0) trailed 28-13 after Pacifica running back Rai Sagastume broke loose on a 73-yard touchdown run on the opening drive of the second half.

The Mariners (2-3) lost Sagastume to injury on the ensuing drive when he tackled Robertson as he scrambled inside the Pacifica 10-yard line. An illegal block was called on the play, but quarterback Kyle Robertson hit Caleb Peterson two plays later on a 13-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 28-20.

“Losing (Sagastume) killed us,” Pacifica coach Vinnie Lopez said.

A 70-yard punt return by Noah Guerrero gave the Wolverines the ball inside the Pacifica 10-yard line, and Eduardo Mayen scored on a 7-yard run on the next play. A two-point conversion pass knotted the game at 28-28 and the momentum had switched to Aliso Niguel’s side.

Pacifica back-up running back Joe Meza was then stopped short on fourth-and-1 at midfield. Aliso Niguel needed just three plays to score on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Robertson to Mayen for a 35-28 lead with 34 seconds left in the third quarter.

Robertson and Peterson would hook up for another touchdown in the fourth quarter, this time for 28 yards, extending the lead to 41-28.

“Pacific came out and just beat on us in the first half,” Westling said. “They were fired up, well coached, and they came after us. We weren’t used to a team just punching us in the face, and we questioned our guys’ character to see if they could step up, and we did.”

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