By Jeremy Balan
Balboa High School, fresh off its league-opening win over Marshall last week, looked to be primed for an upset over Galileo on Friday, but the Lions proved in the second half why they’re still the team to beat in the AAA — they have Quincy Nelson.
Galileo held a 20-13 lead at the half and after being relatively contained by the Balboa defense in the first half (98 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries), Nelson exploded for 251 yards rushing and five touchdowns in the second half and the Lions pulled away to win 56-33.
Nelson finished with a staggering 349 yards and six touchdowns on 28 carries.
“It’s a mode, because I was seeing guys before they got there. It really was a zone I was in,” Nelson said. “It takes me a while to warm up, but once me and the [offensive line] get whirling, they can’t stop us.”
The Lions (3-3, 2-0) appeared to come out of the half with a focus on getting Nelson involved, as he touched the ball on 16 of Galileo’s 25 offensive plays in the second half.
“This year he’s just so much stronger,” said Galileo head coach Mark Huynh. “In this game he really showed speed and how he can still take on the big hits and keep going.”
The Nelson second-half barrage began with 6:25 remaining in the third quarter on an 18-yard touchdown run and ended with touchdown runs of 76 and 50 yards in the fourth.
Balboa (1-5, 1-1) certainly didn’t give up, and scored 20 points in the second half, but each time the Bucs would cut the lead down, Nelson would respond only minutes later.
“We were able to contain him in the first half, but in reality, he just took over in the third and fourth quarter,” Balboa head coach Alvaro Carvajal said. “We just couldn’t keep up with him.”
Some of Balboa’s defensive struggles had to do with the loss of senior linebacker Christian Pulusian, who was out with lingering issues from a shoulder strain that occurred last week. Still Carvajal felt tackling was key, especially on Nelson, who often broke away from tacklers and extended plays.
“We’re dealing with a lot of injury issues, but for the most part, we beat ourselves on a lot of plays,” Carvajal said. “If feel like we could have come away with the victory today if we played sound football, especially in tackling. It was a serious issue.”
The Balboa offense was just as imposing at times, racking up 465 yards led by 261 yards and three touchdowns on 16-of-32 passing by senior quarterback Kerati Apilakvanichakit. But Apilakvanichakit had two interceptions (one by Nelson) and the Bucs turned the ball over five times, stalling drives and giving Galileo great field position.
Huynh still sees the Lions defense as a weak link.
“We were not tackling well and our guys were not getting to the right places,” Huynh said. “Until we figure that out, we’re going to give up 33 points a game and we can’t afford to do that.”
The Lions’ defensive struggles were amplified with the loss of senior linebacker and captain Max Malloy to a torn ACL against Burton last week.
“It hurts a lot and we were definitely sad this week. He’s a star on defense and a star on the offensive line,” Huynh said. “Any time you take out a guy like that, hopefully the younger guys step up. It showed a little bit today, but it’s going to take a few games.”
Huynh also pointed out that Balboa could be a dangerous team come playoff time.
“Balboa always plays us well,” Huynh said. “They were in the game the whole time. Every time we scored, they answered. If they get into the playoffs and we face them again, it will definitely be a challenge.”
G: 9:30 — Waynelle Buckner 72-yard pass from Jonathan Lu (Haroon Mohammed kick)
B: 3:20 — Erik Sutton 24-yard pass from Kerati Apilakvanichakit (Sutton kick)
G: 9:10 — Quincy Nelson 13-yard run (Mohammed kick)
B: 3:02 — Greg Warren 9-yard run (Sutton kick missed)
G: 0:54 — Buckner 15-yard run (Mohammed kick blocked)
G: 6:25 — Nelson 18-yard run (Nelson run on conversion)
G: 4:19 — Nelson 1-yard run (Mohammed kick)
B: 3:24 — Andres Arellano 52-yard pass from Apilakvanichakit (Apilakvanichakit run on conversion)
G: 1:36 — Nelson 23-yard run (Mohammed kick)
B: 7:42 — Warren 10-yard run (Conversion failed)
G: 5:56 — Nelson 76-yard run (Mohammed kick)
B: 3:57 — Sutton 20-yard pass from Apilakvanichakit (Conversion failed)
G: 3:08 — Nelson 50-yard run (Mohammed kick)