By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal
After watching an early lead evaporate, Herald running back Justin Osborn saved the day with his fourth score of the night to lift Whittier Christian over Duarte 29-26 at Whittier College Stadium.
Midway through the fourth quarter with the Heralds lead cut to 21-20, Osborn carried the ball up the middle for a short gain to the Duarte 25-yard-line and was very slow to get up. He ended up leaving the game to get his ankle checked out and re-taped. Not only did he miss that offensive series, but the next defensive series Osborn wasn’t available to lead the defense at his usual middle linebacker spot either.
With Osborn out of the game, the Heralds failed to move the ball one yard and turned it over on downs at the 25.
Less than a minute later on the Falcons third play of the drive, running back Lorenzo Rios broke a couple tackles and sprinted down the sideline for a 60-yard touchdown to give them their first lead of the game 26-21, after the two point conversion failed.
With his right ankle freshly taped, Osborn got back in the game and capped off the next drive with a 24-yard score to give the Heralds the lead for good. Osborn finished his impressive night with 173 yards rushing, 40 yards receiving and four touchdowns.
“[Osborn] is a huge part of what we do offensively, we got a little nervous when he got hurt, but he battled back for us,” said Heralds Head Coach Sergio Gradilla.
The Heralds jumped out to an early two-score lead to start the game, thanks to a Falcons fumble that Heralds defender Hunter Jauregui returned 83 yards for the score.
After the hot start, the Heralds began to stumble with turnovers, penalties and miscues. Nonetheless, the seemingly outmanned Duarte team refused to quit.
“Their record doesn’t indicate it, but we knew we were facing a real physical, tough team,” Gradilla said. “Last week they came really close to winning and their losses have been really close so we knew it was going to be a tough game.”
One thing that haunted the Falcons all night long was the quarterback-center exchange. At least six different times throughout the night quarterback Paul Garcia fumbled the snap or had the ball snapped over his head. None more costly than on the final drive with less than 30 seconds remaining, all but dashing their comeback hopes.
When he had time, which wasn’t often— Garcia looked good throwing the ball. He finished with 230 yards and 3 touchdowns.
The Heralds (3-2) have their work cut out for them next Friday as they try to make it three straight, taking on undefeated St. Margaret’s (4-0) back at Memorial Stadium.