ALISO NIGUEL – The Garden Grove football team has turned to Mike Carrillo many times this season when it needed a crucial play.
Early in the fourth quarter Friday night against Aliso Niguel and clinging to a six-point lead, the Argonauts looked to a different Carrillo.
Senior Jose Carrillo was set to punt from Garden Grove’s 16-yard line, but he ran for 12 yards and a first down. That play, along with a second-half shutout by the defense, helped the Argonauts erase a seven-point deficit and beat Aliso Niguel 28-14 in the quarterfinals of the CIF-SS Division 9 playoffs at Aliso Niguel High.
Garden Grove coach Ricardo Cepeda felt his team was in decent shape after turning the ball over twice in the first half.
“Things didn’t go our way in the first half,” Cepeda said, “but I told them let’s go and mash it down their throats the first drive (of the second half) and keep getting after it and good things will go our way,”
Mike Carrillo, the county’s rushing leader, led the way and ran the ball 41 times for 294 yards and four touchdowns.
“I was trying to tell everybody that this guy (Carrillo) is the best running back in Orange County, I don’t care, Trinity League, whatever,” Cepeda said.
The Garden Grove offense simply wore down the Aliso Niguel defense and Coach Kurt Westling took notice.
“Mike is a great back, but I want to congratulate their offensive line and tight end,” Westling said. “They constantly pushed the line in their favor and they were the best line we’ve played all year.”
Aliso Niguel got off to a fast start by going 65 yards on the opening drive and quarterback Kyle Robertson scored on a 4-yard run for a 7-0 lead.
The Argonauts went three and out on their first possession but were able to tie the score on their second drive.
Carrillo carried the ball 14 times on that drive alone and eventually scored on a 11-yard run to make it 7-7. The drive lasted over eight minutes and spanned two quarters.
Garden Grove forced an Aliso Niguel punt, but the punt was nearly blocked and traveled less than 20 yards on a low trajectory and hit an Argonauts player in the back. Aliso Niguel quickly pounced on the loose ball to regain possession.
On the next play Robertson hit Max Carvalho for a 48-yard pass and four plays later Eduardo Mayen scored to give Aliso Niguel a 14-7 lead.
But just as Cepeda told his team, good things started to happen for the Argonauts in the second half, on both sides of the ball.
Garden Grove scored on its opening drive of the second half using its ground attack and a pair of 15-yard penalties to set Carrillo’s 2-yard TD run to tie the score at 14.
On defense, Garden Grove was able to neutralize the running ability of Robertson and keep him in the pocket.
“That’s a powerful offense and we just said, ‘let’s get smart and let’s take away their best athlete,’ ” Cepeda said of Robertson.
Aliso Niguel elected to go for it on fourth-and-7 at the Garden Grove 13 instead of attempting a field goal, but Robertson’s pass fell incomplete and the Argonauts took over possession.
Carrillo broke off a 53-yard TD run on the next drive to give Garden Grove its first lead of the game 20-14.
Carrillo added a 40-yard touchdown run late in fourth to put the game out of reach.
Just before halftime Aliso Niguel marched down field and looked primed to add to its lead but the Argonauts defense forced a fumble.
“If we would’ve been up 21-7 at half that would’ve been big, but we had that fumble and then they drove down to start the second half and got a little of the ‘mo’ back,” Westling said
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