QUARTZ HILL — The Palmdale football team played an almost perfect game in the third quarter Friday night at Quartz Hill High School.
The Falcons’ defense forced the first turnover of the game and their offense scored 17 points to break a halftime tie.
The third-quarter performance was enough to propel Palmdale to a 31-21 Golden League victory over Quartz Hill and clinch the league title for the Falcons.
Palmdale players and coaches ran on to the field to celebrate the Falcons’ first title since splitting it with Quartz Hill and Antelope Valley in 2017 and its first outright Golden League title since Palmdale (9-1, 7-0) went undefeated in league in 2015.
“It feels great to have the GLC back to Palmdale,” Palmdale senior Tyjoun Cavins said. “We made a couple of adjustments at halftime and we played as a team, the whole team. Once we came back from halftime, the team was ready and hyped.
“I feel good about how we’re playing. It makes me think we can get all the way to the championship.”
Cavins powered the Falcons’ offense, rushing for 170 yards on 20 carries with four touchdowns, including two in the third quarter.
Palmdale broke a 14-14 halftime score, building a 31-14 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“We’re happy with the end result, but not how we got there,” Palmdale coach Eric Nickols said. “We were a little rough.”
Both teams were penalized 140 yards each.
Nickols said the Falcons were fired up by a 57-yard kickoff return by senior Steven Godbolt to start the third quarter.
“Steven Godbolt sparked us and ran the kickoff back, we got excited,” Nickols said.
Nickols also credited Cavins for his ground game.
“He ran the hell out of the ball,” Nickols said. “He’s a very physical runner.”
Godbolt gave Palmdale excellent field position to start the second half and the Falcons quickly capitalized.
The Palmdale drive was interrupted by an injury to Palmdale senior tight end Antonio Bittar, who was hit in the should going over the middle of the field. Bittar, who suffered a left arm injury, remained on the field until paramedics took him to an ambulance.
Two plays after the lengthy injury delay, Cavins scored on a 3-yard run.
Then it was time for the Palmdale defense to shine, as senior safety Isaiah Paul intercepted a Quartz Hill pass, giving the Falcons the ball at the Quartz Hill 37-yard line.
“This is a big win,” said Paul, who had a second interception in the fourth quarter. “It’s lots of hard work.”
Paul said the league title is especially meaningful after the team finished 6-5 last season.
“It means a lot,” Paul said.
Cavins immediately capitalized on the turnover, scoring on a 37-yard run.
“That third quarter killed us,” Quartz Hill coach James Vondra said. “We had penalties, false starts. We’re like almost there. Our guys competed for three out of four quarters. We’ve got things we can fix. At least we’ve get another week. There’s five schools that are turning in their gears and they don’t get another week. At least our guys get another opportunity to get out there and show that we can play better.
“Hats off to Palmdale. They did a great job. We knew what they were going to do coming in. We knew they were going to run. They did it and we couldn’t stop it. They’ve got some good, young athletic kids over there. Our guys, we’re getting there. We’re a little inconsistent on some things. We’ve got some things we can improve on, so we’re going to be better. I just hope we’ll be better next week and not when it’s too late.”
Palmdale scored on its next possession, as senior kicker Alec Morales capped a 13-play, 52-yard drive with a 27-yard field goal.
Palmdale was able to control the game and the clock with its running game, rushing for a total of 290 yards on a combined 40 carries.
Palmdale junior quarterback Marcus Hearn rushed for 119 yards on 14 carries, as well as throwing for 65 yards on 2-of-9 passing.
After a scoreless first quarter, Palmdale scored on the first play of the second quarter, on a 5-yard run by Cavins, giving the Falcons a brief 7-0 lead.
Quartz Hill answered with a 63-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Bryce Dickson to sophomore Nicholas Williams, who broke two tackles on the play.
Palmdale replied on the ensuing drive with a 9-yard touchdown run by Cavins. On the opening play of the 77-yard drive, Hearn found Bittar for a 57-yard pass play. It was the only reception for Bittar in the game.
Quartz Hill would score on the following drive, as Dickson connected with Williams on an 8-yard touchdown pass, capping a 19-play, 90-yard drive in the final minute of the first half.
Dickson completed 16-of-31 passes for 215 yards. Williams caught five passes for 118 yards.
Dickson scored on a 3-yard run midway through the fourth quarter, but the Rebels were unsuccessful in recovering an onside kick.
The Rebels took their final drive down to the Palmdale 10-yard line, but failed as time expired.
Palmdale senior Karl Key had the lone sack for the Falcons in the fourth quarter.
Nickols said it was hard to motivate his team, beginning last Friday when the Falcons were celebrating their Senior Night, with a 57-0 win over Lancaster, and heard that Highland had defeated Quartz Hill 50-0.
“I couldn’t believe it at first,” Nickols said. “I knew it would be hard to get the guys motivated. We had to be disciplined.
“I knew Quartz Hill would come out and play very physical.”
Quartz Hill finished third in the Golden League behind Highland.
The CIF-Southern Section playoff brackets will be released on Sunday.