Orange Vista defense frustrates Paloma Valley football, snaps three-game skid – Press Enterprise

MENIFEE — Before Friday night’s nonleague contest against Orange Vista High, Paloma Valley coach Juan Merida said his biggest concern was the Coyotes’ size and speed on the defensive line.

His worst fears were realized.

Orange Vista sacked Wildcats’ quarterback Brady Nelson five times in a dominating 48-28 victory to snap a three-game losing streak. The Coyotes improved their record to 2-3 and begin Ivy League action Friday on the road against Riverside North.

Coyotes’ sophomore quarterback Khalil Abdul-Aziz completed 14 of 20 passes without an interception for 256 yards and three touchdowns. Jasaevion Duffey-Cooper’s two catches – for 10 yards and 50 yards – resulted in touchdowns, and Dionte West had a 38-yard reception for a score.

Running back Sire Gaines, fully recovered from a toe injury, rushed for 94 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries for Orange Vista.

But for all the offensive firepower, it was the defense that controlled the game for Orange Vista. The Coyotes’ formidable defensive front, led by Northern Arizona commit Corey Johnson, harassed Nelson nearly every play. With the sack yardage, Paloma Valley rushed for 13 yards on 23 attempts.

The Coyotes paid a price for their pass-rush aggression, however. Nelson, the Wildcats’ senior leader, was elusive enough to complete 23 of 40 attempts for 383 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Keegan Kelly, often lining up as a slot receiver, consistently turned short passes into long gains for the Wildcats, with six catches for 106 yards. Jayden Epps collected three passes for 92 yards and a touchdown, and Arthur Clemons caught four passes for 90 yards and a score.

“It’s hard when you have a quarterback like that who’s elusive and can wiggle free,” Orange Vista coach Greg Zomalt said. “That’s a good quarterback. He was a handful.”

Turnovers continue to plague Orange Vista. On Friday, the Coyotes lost five fumbles, which is a concern for Zomalt.

“If we continue to play on through league and advance to the playoffs, we have a lot of things to fix,” Zomalt told his squad after the game. “But I’m excited. Let’s fix those little things.”

Paloma Valley slips to 3-3 heading into Sunbelt League play Saturday, Sept. 20, at Riverside Poly. But Merida was encouraged by the Wildcats’ performance against a more athletic squad.

“I liked our energy, and I liked our physicality,” Merida said. “If we continue to play well moving forward, we’re going to be just fine.”

After Paloma Valley cut the Coyotes’ lead to 14-7 early in the second quarter on a 64-yard pass from Nelson to Clemons, Orange Vista’s Jesse Anderson took the ensuing kickoff and weaved 77 yards to the end zone to re-establish Orange Vista’s control of the contest.

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