Golden Valley Grizzlies senior Isaiah Orozco trampled the Saugus Centurions on Thursday in his varsity football finale.
Orozco was the driving force in Golden Valley’s 38-22 win over Saugus at Canyon High School, officially ending the Centurions’ winless season.
The two-way star Orozco exploded for 221 rushing yards, three touchdowns and added an interception on defense.
“It’s bittersweet,” Orozco said. “Coming in from not winning a league game this season to winning our last game finishing strong, and knowing what we came out here for a purpose, especially to make Saugus 0-10. It meant a lot.”
Golden Valley (3-7, 1-5) was up just 10 points at halftime but scored 21 points in the third to pull away from Saugus.
Grizzlies head coach Dan Kelley was proud of his team for closing out the year with a win.
“We’re not a bad football team,” Kelley said. “We’re talented but in a few games this year, we couldn’t get out of our own way. We made mistakes in a few of those games that cost us games and put us in the position that we’re in now. I’m happy that the players were able to come together tonight and put a win together.”
The Centurions (0-10, 0-6) were led by quarterback Jake Nuttall and wide receiver Jayden Lepley.
Lepley led all players with six catches for 66 yards and two TDs. The freshman Lepley has been tearing up defenses since his return to the team after an injury against West Ranch.
Nuttall, a sophomore, nearly threw for over 300 yards and had three touchdowns in his 2023 finale.
The Grizzlies brought in scores on their first and last plays of the first half. Orozco took his first touch of the game 66 yards to the house for the opening score. The senior also found the end zone on Golden Valley’s following drive, leading to a quick 14-0 lead.
It took time for Saugus to find some rhythm as running back Lucas Francke was having trouble getting the ground game going. The Centurions didn’t run into too many issues in the passing game, with Nuttall consistently finding open targets.
Nuttall hit Francke for a 50-yard touchdown pass, Saugus’ only score of the first half. The Centurion quarterback played well under duress but had to deal with Grizzlies junior linebacker Rico Lapid, who added 1.5 sacks.
The Grizzlies stalled after scores on their two opening drives. Saugus hit the gaps harder and stuffed Orozco and the run game while also adding pressure that led to a pick and sack on Golden Valley quarterback Brandon Contreras.
The Grizzly quarterback hit his best pass of the game with less than 30 seconds left in the first half. Contreras hit receiver Kam’ron Pierre for a 45-yard play. The long haul set up an Alex Risdon 40-yard field goal with just one second left on the clock to put the Grizzlies up 17-7 at halftime.
Orozco punched in his third score of the game on his second touch of the third quarter, running in a 65-yard touchdown.
Senior running back Julian Rios also added 36 yards and a score for the Grizzlies.
Saugus finally found the end zone in the fourth quarter, as Nuttall hit Lepley for 21-yard and 7-yard scores.
Orozco was also a driving force in holding Saugus under 10 rushing yards.
“Our defense stepped up,” Orozco said. “We knew that if we cover their pass game, our D-Line would clean up. So at the end of the day, we trusted each of our teammates to do their job and we executed.”
Orozco also added an interception in the third quarter to top off his monster varsity finale.
“Isaiah Orozco is a special player,” Kelley said. “He’s worked hard for this. He had a great senior season. I told him tonight I was proud of him. Not so much in his ability on the field but he really grew as a leader this year. He led the team, so he has a strong future ahead of him whatever you choose to do.”
Both teams move into the offseason with plenty to improve on but with a ton to look forward to.
Lepley and Nuttall both return for Saugus, while Contreras, Jamison Torres and plenty of others return for Golden Valley.
“In 2018, we went to 2-8 after going to the CIF finals and then this year we go 3-7 after the CIF final,” Kelley said. “Maybe I don’t want to go back to the final. It’s back to the drawing board. We’ll take some time here to figure out what we did right, what we did wrong and come up with a battle plan for the offseason.”