Posted on 08 November 2012 by La Habra Journal
La Habra’s defense holds Raiders as its offense takes over to seal victory over Sonora.
By Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal
The La Habra football team won it’s seventh consecutive Freeway League title in convincing fashion with a 51-19 victory over city rival Sonora, Friday night.
Behind by one game in the standings, the Raiders had an opportunity to create a three-way tie for the league championship with a victory, but the Highlanders squashed those hopes starting in the second quarter.
After an even first quarter, the Highlanders defense shut down Sonora completely until the fourth quarter and La Habra’s three-headed monster at running back pounded the ball to the tone of two second-quarter touchdowns as La Habra held a 19-7 lead at halftime. The Highlanders never looked back.
Greg Gaines scored two rushing touchdowns, Hector Islas and Sebastian Salinas added one rushing touchdown each and the Highlanders ran away with the game in the fourth quarter by scoring 22 points.
“Our offensive line has been improving with each and every game,” Mazzotta said. “The three guys in the backfield are really benefiting from that and hopefully we can get that same type of production in the playoffs, plus we could have Carlos Martin back.”
Mazzotta added that if Martin is able to return, he would be used cautiously.
The Highlanders defense limited Sonora running back Matt Villasenor to 44 yards rushing, well below his average of 111 yards-per-game this season. The senior running back also caught three passes for 44 yards.
However, Sonora quarterback Kyle Mahlstede was up to the challenge, racking up 259 yards passing and three touchdowns all going to wide receiver Nate Miranda.
“They did a good job of taking away our run game with their play up front,” Chiotti said. “ I liked Kyle’s ability to get out of the pocket and make some plays for us and I think Nate has really proved himself all season long as a viable threat down the field.”
La Habra took the opening drive and efficiently drove down the field with a 11-play, 65-yard drive. The Highlanders kept the ball on the ground for all but one play and Gaines capped it with a four-yard touchdown run.
Less than two minutes later, the Raiders tied the game with a 33-yard pass from Mahlstede to Miranda and it looked as if a back-and-forth battle was on.
However, La Habra forced Sonora into bad field position and the Raiders struggled to get Villasenor and fullback Justin Mun enough room to run.
“This defensive front seven could be one of the best I’ve had in a while,” Mazzotta said. “They did a great job up front. They have stepped up many times and they’ve really had to work hard all season long.”
The Highlanders took advantage with two touchdowns in the second quarter on a 17-yard scamper by Islas and a one-yard plunge by Gaines.
However, an extra point and a two-point conversion try were missed and La Habra’s lead remained at 12 points at the half.
The Raiders were denied on the final drive of the half when a delay of game penalty put them out of field goal range. Mahlstede was sacked by Michael DeArmond to end the half.
“Field position hurt us all night long and good teams like La Habra know how to use that to their advantage,” Chiotti said. “There were times where we weren’t able to make the play and times that they were.”
La Habra continued the pressure in the third quarter and Salinas added to the scoring with a 33-point touchdown run. The Highlanders added a safety when Tristan de la Rosa sacked Mahlstede in the end zone.
Then things got wild in the fourth quarter as the teams combined for 34 points.
The Highlanders stretched their lead to 35-7 when Noah Massman recovered a fumble and raced for a 72-yard return touchdown.
Less than a minute later, Sonora’s Mahlstede hit Miranda again for a 14-yard score, but the Highlanders would run it to a 30-point lead when Sparling found room for a 52-yard touchdown run and then completed a pass to Christian Casas for the two point conversion.
Mahlstede and Miranda combined one last time for a eight-yard strike, but the Raiders would get no closer.
La Habra reserve running back Jake Colacion added a 55-yard touchdown run and backup quarterback Eric Barrier ran in the two-point conversion to close out the scoring.
Barrier threw his first interception of the season when Marques Arteaga had positioning over receivers Casas and Nick Gutierrez at the goal line, resulting in a touchback for the Raiders.
Miranda finished with 176 yards receiving.
La Habra’s Islas led all rushers with 103 yards while Salinas and Sparling added 66 yards apiece.
Both teams secured playoff spots after their Week 9 victories, but a league title was still on the line.
For La Habra, it’s a sixth consecutive league championship and 31 consecutive victories in the Freeway League. The Highlanders will begin their playoff journey with a home game against Los Alamitos.
“We feel good, we knew heading into this season that it wasn’t going to be easy,” Mazzotta said. “This team has stuck together and they knew they’d have to work hard to make it here.”
Sonora will enter the CIF-SS Southwest Division playoffs as the Freeway League’s No. 3 seed. The Raiders will travel to Placentia in order to play Valencia in the first round.
“We’re very excited to be back in the playoffs, it’s the third straight year for us and these seniors,” Chiotti said. “This division is loaded with talent and we know we’re going to have to battle a tough team in the first round.”