NORCO -- Maybe there is a team that can stand up to Corona Centennial.
Vista Murrieta showed it might just have the best shot of any team in the Inland Division, cakewalking over Norco, 45-6, in a quarterfinal game Friday night at Norco High.
Derrick Brown led the way for the second-seeded Broncos, rushing for 146 yards in 13 carries and scoring three touchdowns. He also threw a 31-yard touchdown pass in the opening quarter to wide receiver Shane Paulson for a quick 7-0 lead.
“We just came out here to try and play our game, play fast, hit hard, run around like we always do,” said Brown, who has committed to Utah. “We put points on the board.”
After taking a 17-0 lead into halftime, Vista Murrieta blew the game open by scoring 21 unanswered points in the third quarter.
Now it’s on to the semifinals for the second consecutive season. The Broncos defeated Norco in last season’s semis, 34-33, getting the winning touchdown pass from Brown on fourth down with under a minute to play.
“When we play like this, it shows that we are a better team [than last season],” said Vista Murrieta defensive end Jonathan Sanchez, who has committed to San Diego State.
Before the Broncos can begin thinking about a date with Centennial, which has steamrollered its opponents this season, including a 45-0 victory at Norco during Big VIII League play four weeks ago, they must get past third-seeded Rancho Cucamonga, a 51-36 winner against Eastvale Roosevelt.
Roosevelt defeated Norco, 24-21, in Week 5.
Norco running back Kelsey Young struggled to find room in the Vista Murrieta defense. The Stanford-bound senior finished with 57 yards in 18 carries and fumbled the first time he touched the ball, setting up Paulson’s touchdown catch.
A 39-yard field by Tyler Rausa stretched the lead to 10-0 with 3:40 remaining in the opening quarter.
Vista Murrieta twice stopped the Cougars on downs in the first half. The second time, Norco went for it on fourth-and-8 at the Vista Murrieta 39, but freshman quarterback Coltin Gerhart was sacked at midfield.
Vista Murrieta receiver Michael Mazur then caught a 36-yard pass to the Norco six and Brown ran the ball into the end zone on the next play, giving the Broncos a 17-point lead with 3:57 remaining in the opening half.
Brown added two more touchdown runs in the third quarter to put the game away.
The Cougars avoided a shutout when Joshua Long caught a touchdown pass with less than two minutes remaining against the Vista Murrieta reserves.