Sei-J Lauago carries La Mirada to state Division III-AA football title

All season long, La Mirada relied on the legs of tailback Sei-J Lauago.

It did so again in one of the biggest games in program history and the senior captain rushed for 189 yards and three touchdowns in 21 carries to lead the host Matadores to a 27-3 victory over Moraga Campolindo in Saturday night's CIF state Division III-AA championship game.

Lauago ran for a 75-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage in the second half and broke two tackles at the line of scrimmage on his way to a four-yard score on fourth-and-one eight minutes later after a 26-yard interception return by Tevaka Tuioti, making the score 20-3.

"We knew going into the second half we had to be physical and pound it," Lauago said. "On that first play my O-line did a great job, the receivers blocked downfield... it wasn't just me."

It was the 12th straight win for La Mirada (13-3), which beat La Serna two weeks ago for the Southern Section Southeast Division title and defeated Oceanside to win the III-AA regional bowl game last Saturday.

Nick Hernandez added a three-yard touchdown run with 8:17 left in the fourth quarter to provide the final margin.

"On day one, our goal was to win a state championship, but Coach [Mike Moschetti] told us it wasn't going to be easy," Lauago added. "We're not used to playing in the rain. That kind of threw us off a bit, but all respect to Campolindo. They play smash-mouth football, they're disciplined and tough."

Both offenses struggled to move the ball on a field made slippery by steady rain throughout the first half.

North Coast Section champion Campolindo (14-2) controlled the ball for all but two minutes in the first quarter and capped a 14-play drive with a 21-yard field goal by Matt Blair to take a 3-0 lead.

La Mirada needed just two plays to take a 7-3 lead on its third possession, with Lauago scoring from two yards out.

Tevaka Tuioti set up the score on a 73-yard punt return to the Cougars' six-yard line.

"Tevaka's punt return set the tone for the rest of the game," Lauago said. "That was huge."

La Mirada quarterback Tristan Meyer attempted only one pass in the first half — a completion for minus-2 yards to Lauago.

He entered the game having thrown for 1,927 yards and 27 touchdowns and finished only two for five for 11 yards.

Lauago finished the season with 1,856 yards and 24 touchdowns.

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