It took a lot more effort this week, but Imperial High’s Royce Freeman surpassed yet another CIF-San Diego Section record as his Tigers defeated Central Union High, 45-28, here Friday.
A week after becoming the career rushing yards leader, Freeman is now the career rushing touchdowns leader, with 106.
“It’s great,” the 17-year-old senior said. “Week after week feels good.”
With both teams vying for at least a share of the Imperial Valley League title as well as playoff seeds in their respective CIF-San Diego Section divisions, match-up promised to be a great one — and it was.
A stout Central Spartans defense forced Freeman to run for a career-high 38 carries, but he still managed to notch 311 yards and four touchdowns, giving him more than 7,000 career rushing yards.
“Honestly, we knew it was going to be tough, especially over at Central,” he said. “We came out and showed a lot of heart, and I’m proud of my teammates.”
The Imperial Tigers jumped out to an early 14-0 lead off touchdown runs by Freeman and quarterback Chris Carter.
But the Spartans quickly struck back, with Sergio Osuna throwing a pair of touchdown passes to Angel Ramirez and Jakob Salgado.
Freeman would score another touchdown run before Osuna would find Salgado once again for pay dirt, with Ramirez following up with a rushing score to give Central a 28-21 halftime lead.
“I feel that we came out strong,” Salgado said. “We wanted it more than they did in the first half.
“But by the time we reached the second half, our heads got too big and we defeated ourselves,” he said.
The Tigers dominated the second half, with Carter throwing two touchdown passes and Freeman scoring on the ground twice more, while Imperial’s defense held its opponents scoreless.
“The first half wasn’t that great for us, but in the second half we came out and did what we needed to do to get the win,” Carter said.
“They came out with a lot of heart and intensity, and I guess that caught us off-guard,” he said. “But we came back in the second quarter and shut them down.”
Freeman’s final run, a 3-yarder, was the deciding factor in the career rushing touchdowns record, which had been held by former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL player Rashaan Salaam.
That score, as with all of the second half touchdowns, owed much to Imperial’s increased efforts in the second half on both sides of the ball.
“Honestly, I felt our defense came out in the second half with way more intensity and allowed our offense to get the ball back,” Freeman said.
“I felt like their defensive line got a little winded, and our offensive line did their job, definitely,” he said.
With two records already under his belt, Freeman is sure to get his third this coming week when the Tigers (9-0, 4-0 IVL) host Palo Verde Valley on Thursday night.
The Oregon-bound ’back needs just four more points – either as a runner, receiver or on two-point conversions – to own the CIF-San Diego Section career points record.
Central (5-4, 3-1 IVL) can still own a piece of second place in the Imperial Valley League if it can successfully defend its home turf against rival Brawley Union High in the 70th annual Bell Game next Friday night.
“It’s a tough loss, but it’s definitely a momentum-builder,” Salgado said. “We know that if we could keep up with Imperial, then we can definitely keep up with Brawley.”