The key for the Salesian High football team on Saturday against visiting Ferndale was one play involving two key contributors for the Pride all season long: an inside counter handoff to senior running back Aaron Prier behind junior tackle Freddie Tagaloa.

Salesian coach Chad Nightingale saw the mismatch against the smaller defensive line of the Wildcats early in the game and called the play repeatedly throughout the first half and third quarter. The result was a dominating 76-28 Pride victory in the North Coast Section Division IV semifinals.

Prier finished with 277 rushing yards and four touchdowns. He received considerable assistance from Tagaloa, who's 6-foot-8, 300 pounds and one of the area's top offensive line recruits for next season.

Salesian (10-2) will play Middletown (12-1) in the Division IV championship game Saturday at 7 p.m. at Alhambra High.

"The game plan was just to see what the defense gave us," Nightingale said. "We saw the advantage, and our line blocked great all game long. Our offense executed on all levels from top to bottom. The kids just played great as a unit."

Ferndale (9-3) couldn't stop the Pride's second- and third-string running backs, Marcial Malic and Trevor Donahue, either. They rushed for a combined 148 yards on only eight carries .

Nightingale also was pleased with his defense, which forced three turnovers on two interceptions and a fumble. Both interceptions led to points for the Pride.


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"In my entire career coaching, I've never had a team put up this many points," Nightingale said. "It was nice to get turnovers from our defense and it was just a complete effort from the team."

Salesian quarterback Ikaika Woolsey also played an efficient game, connecting on 7 of 9 passing attempts for 181 yards and three touchdowns.

"This was a great game for us, all across the board," Nightingale said. "We look forward to next week. We've watched (Middletown) already this year and they are a phenomenal football team."