ARCADIA -- Alex Tayco entered Saturday's CIF-Southern Section championship game knowing full well that he was going to receive his share of carries. And when the senior running back started off slowly, he did not appear to be overly concerned the results.
His patience paid off, of course, by the time the final seconds ticked off the clock. Tayco finished with 160 yards in 20 carries and scored to guide Rio Hondo Prep to a 34-13 victory over visiting Lancaster Desert Christian in a Northeast Division title showdown.
“My job was stay focused and run down hill, that's what I did out there tonight,'' Tayco said. “I owe a lot to my offensive line. They did a great job.''
With a three-touchdown lead throughout the fourth quarter, Rio Hondo Prep (13-1) stuck to the game plan and kept the ball on the ground behind Tayco.
“Alex ran the ball hard tonight, but we had a feeling that was going to be the case,'' Kares coach Ken Drain said. “He was fantastic. He has been all year.''
The Knights opened the second half with a sense of urgency as Chance Gusberth scored on a four-yard run to cut the deficit, 28-13, at the 5:06 mark of the third.
K.J. Moore answered for the Kares. He scored on touchdown runs of 23 and 9 yards to give Rio Hondo Prep a 34-13 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
“The line was huge for us, all night long, they dominated,'' Moore said. “When they are opening holes, it makes our job as running backs a whole lot easier.''
Rio Hondo Prep gained some much-needed momentum right before intermission. Tayco tossed the ball to Colby Rivera on a flea-flicker and he found Christian Torrico on a 32-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 21-7 with 15 seconds left in the second quarter.
Tayco was a workhorse in the first half, particularly on a late second quarter drive. He had gains of 12 and 16 yards to set up a Rivera 1-yard touchdown run. With the short yardage score, the Kares took a 13-7 advantage with 3:50 left before the halftime break.
Solid special teams play set up the first touchdown for the Kares. Ty Loomis booted a 43-yard punt and pinned Desert Christian at its own 1-yard line. Following a three and out, the Rio Hondo Prep offense took over and capitalized on the good field position. Tayco scored on 2-yard run to cap the drive and tie the score, 7-7, with 8:18 remaining in the second quarter.
Desert Christian chewed up nearly seven minutes off the clock on its first drive. Gusbeth picked up 40 yards on the ground to move the ball down field. Kiel Alcaraz did the rest, scoring on a 1-yard run to give the Knights a 7-0 lead with 5:15 left in the first quarter.