Archive | November, 2015

Raiders surge late but fall to Tritons

Raiders surge late but fall to Tritons

Posted on 21 November 2015 by La Habra Journal

Erik Markus
La Habra Journal

The Raiders gave the San Clemente Tritons a scare on Friday night, but ultimately fell 52-45.

LHJ Sonora vs SC FB

The Tritons went into the game ranked as the second seed in the CIF Southern Section Division playoffs. But after the Raiders collected their third onside kick, with momentum already in their favor, the Raiders had a chance to force overtime.

The Raiders’ comeback attempt came up short, with Cole McDonald’s Hail Mary pass underthrown to Steven Riley and intercepted by Kevin Kling.

“This is a special group, it’s a shame it has got to end,” Chiotti said.

San Clemente would drain the remainder of the clock and escape with a second round victory.

“I’m proud of these guys, these guys battled out and we came back. I mean, San Clemente, hats off to them, they’re a damn good team man. I’m just proud that our guys battled and stepped up to the challenge,” Julian Orozco said.

The Tritons held the lead through the entire second half, but a mental mistake by the kickoff returner in the fourth quarter gave the Raiders the second wind they needed to climb back into the game.

“He had a moment of unclarity. It’s a lesson learned, and thankfully we can move on,” San Clemente head coach Jaime Ortiz said.

LHJ Sonora vs SC FB

The Tritons went into the fourth quarter leading 38-28. The defense was able to sack McDonald on third down, forcing the Raiders to punt.

Starting with the ball on the 28 yard line, the Tritons swiftly drove down field, scoring on a 43 yard pass to Liam Eldridge. The touchdown gave the Tritons a 17 point lead and momentum with less than 10 minutes to play.

The Raiders needed a spark if they wanted to keep their keep their season going.

Moving quickly, the Raiders moved down field with a balance between sideline throws to Riley and Jason Clayton, and running between McDonald and Jacob Fimbres. The senior running back  finished off the drive with a 1 yard touchdown run.

“(McDonald) and Fimbres have been our two dynamic players and you know they made a lot of plays tonight and they’ve done that all year,” Chiotti said.

With 6:32 to play, the Tritons were lined up expecting an onside kick. Kicker, Carlos Flores sent a pooch kick towards to San Clemente, but rather than collecting the bouncing ball, the Tritons’ returner kept his distance.

San Clemente, not realizing the ball was live, allowed the Raiders to pile on top of the ball on  the Tritons’ 11 yard line.

The Raiders were fired up, knowing this was the break they would need to put a dent into the San Clemente lead. 4 plays later, Fimbres hopped over the line, into the end zone to bring the Raiders within a field goal.

LHJ Sonora vs SC FB

But with the Raiders needing a stop, San Clemente drove 83 yards for a touchdown to bring their lead back to 10.

“We just couldn’t come up with the key stop at the end, they were to kind of run out the clock on us,” Chiotti said.

The Raiders were able to respond with a field goal. Then collected their third onside kick. But with a minute to play the Raiders were unable to create the last scoring drive necessary to send a final knockout blow to the Tritons.

“We had them on the ropes, we just couldn’t get that last little play,” Chiotti said.

The Tritons victory allows them to continue on, with a date with their third Freeway league team, Buena Park who beat Corona del Mar 35-17. The Tritons will host that game next Friday.

“We told our kids at halftime that the second half was going to be won during the summer with the conditioning,” Ortiz said “I think our offensive line kind of imposed their will late in the game and we had an opportunity to score.

The Triton’s road to a CIF title may need to go through the Freeway league, having knocked out Sunny Hills and Sonora, and Buena Park and La Habra still alive.

“Our league was tremendous this year, they’re some very talented teams this year, and I think our team was one of them.

For Sonora, they remaining teams are a tribute to the strength of the Freeway league, which molded and tested the Raiders for their playoff run.

LHJ Sonora vs SC FB

“We do it the Sonora way, and that’s with hard work and our local kids,” Chiotti said.

“For Sonora and La Habra to have as many great athletes as they do, it’s a testament to the city of La Habra, they’re a tough football team, and the kids battled the entire game,” Ortiz said.

After the game, many Raiders were emotional, but were surrounded by their friends and family.

“We had a good year, it will probably be the last time I ever play with my friends again,” Fimbres said.

While many of the players were disappointed with the way things ended, they all knew this was still an accomplishment.

“If you can get into the quarterfinals, get a home playoff game, it’s a special year. It’s a great accomplishment,” Chiotti said.

The end of this season also marks the end of many of this team’s contributors.

“Sometimes you have to suffer a little defeat, that ends your season and your career for some of these seniors, but these guys have come together, these guys have battled.” Chiotti said “I think they take away the key things, the values the characteristics we’re trying to instill. Hard work, dedication to each other, and ultimately, that’s what I know these guys are going to take away.”

Chiotti has seen this group of players grow and mature to develop to this point.

LHJ Sonora vs SC FB

“They took their lumps as sophomores, they learned and improved last year as juniors, and this year they put together a great year,” Chiotti said.

The Raiders will now look to their juniors and other emerging players as they brace for next season.

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Highlanders soar past Hawks into Semis

Highlanders soar past Hawks into Semis

Posted on 21 November 2015 by La Habra Journal

Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

La Habra’s balanced offensive attack and resilient red zone defense proved too much for Laguna Hills, despite a spirited effort in front of the Hawks’ home crowd Friday night.

For the first time in over a month, the Highlanders allowed a point, defeating Laguna Hills 42-14. Perhaps nearly as impressive though, the defensive unit held the Hawks scoreless on three separate drives with first-and-goal situations.
The Highlanders were ultimately just too big and fast down the stretch, but the Hawks put together a heady game plan early, keeping the game relatively close by utilizing veer running plays and mixing in short passes and screens. The strategy kept the Highlanders’ potent offense off the field for long stretches and helped to keep the aggressive Highlander defense off-balance.
“Everybody’s game plan against us has been to control the ball, keep it away from our offense and keep it out of Eric’s hands, but thank goodness our defense is good enough to make stops and they do,” said Frank Mazzotta, La Habra head coach.
Eric Barriere and C.J. Taylor combined to rush for over 300 yards, while Aman Fellows and Prince Ross both topped the century mark receiving.
Taylor got the Hawks attention early, carrying the ball down the field 75 yards on the first two plays of the game. Two plays later quarterback Eric Barriere grabbed a low snap that skipped across the turf and scrambled to turn it into a 6-yard touchdown run.
After the Highlander defense forced a punt, Eric Lancaster-Garcia’s return gave the Highlanders great field position. Taylor quickly got back to work and took the ball 54 yards for the score on the first play, giving La Habra the 14-0 lead with 7:02 remaining in the first quarter.
Laguna Hills answered back with a methodical five-minute, 67-yard drive down the field utilizing misdirection hand-offs to backs Sam Warren and Zac Crowe. The Hawks capped off the drive with a 4-yard pass from Mitchell O’Hair to Logan Montgomery.
Taylor continued his incredible play on the final drive of the first half, carrying the ball five times for 64 yards, including a 1-yard plunge into the end zone to stretch the lead to 21-7. The Highlanders’ workhorse running back went into the break with 193 yards on the ground and two scores.
With less than 30 seconds in the half and the ball on the 10, Laguna Hills had an excellent opportunity to go into the half down by only one score. However, La Habra stuffed a couple running plays, then Jacob Jones came on a blitz and sacked O’Hair. The Hawks went for a chip shot field goal, but the Highlanders came up with the block.
Jones said that the Hawks made some big plays when players got out of position, but the team stayed confident because they all prepared to defend goal line situations at practice.
“When we got down to the red zone where the [La Habra] defense could really pin their ears back, it made it more challenging for us,” Jones said
The Highlanders took the opening drive of the second half 61 yards on four plays, scoring on a 5-yard pass from Barriere to Ross. The touchdown was setup with a 41-yard improvised run by Barriere, with the wide receivers holding their blocks down the field.
O’Hair scored on a 2-yard naked-bootleg to keep the game interesting. The score came two plays after a controversial call on fourth-and-one inside the 5-yard-line, in which the referees changed their call from a turnover-on-downs, to a first down for the Hawks retaining possession at the 3-yard-line.

LHJ LHHS vs MV FB 2015

LHJ LHHS vs MV FB 2015

The Highlanders pushed the lead to 35-14 on the first play of the fourth quarter, when Barriere connected with Ross on a 54-yard catch and run for the touchdown.
After an interception by defensive back Khailand Johnson, Barriere put the game well out of reach when he connected with Fellows for a 52-yard touchdown.
“I knew I was going to get the ball, so I just wanted to get my offense back on the field to put some more points on the board, 35 isn’t enough,” Johnson said.
After blowing teams out early the past few weeks, the Highlanders first unit offense played its first full game in more than a month.
Barriere finished with 237 yards— three touchdowns passing, and 113 yards— one touchdown rushing.
“Coming into the second round we knew we were going to be playing a better team, but once it clicked in the second half we proved we were the better team,” Barriere said.
His top targets tonight were Ross with six catches for 105 yards—two touchdowns, and Fellows who finished with four catches for 102 yards—one touchdown.
Taylor finished the night with 15 carries for 226 yards— two touchdowns on the ground.
The Hawks came up short, but took pride in how far the team came this season. Last year the Hawks finished the season with only one win. Despite the loss tonight, Laguna Hills (8-4) had an impressive turnaround.
“Coming off of last year’s 1-9 season, I couldn’t imagine being with a group of more motivated guys,” O’Hair said. “I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend my senior season.”
O’Hair finished with 173 yards—one touchdown and added a rushing touchdown. The Hawks leading receiver was Montgomery with 82 yards—one touchdown.
The Highlanders (11-1) will be moving on to play Villa Park (12-0) in the CIF-SS Semifinals next Friday at home, kickoff will be at 7 p.m.

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Highlanders hit 45 on Freeway

Highlanders hit 45 on Freeway

Posted on 07 November 2015 by La Habra Journal

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

The Highlanders set a new Orange County record for consecutive league victories with its shutout win its 42-0 win over Troy at home Friday night.
The Highlanders unprecedented 45-game Freeway League winning streak, which began in 2006, bested the mark set by Mission Viejo in 2007.

LHJ WCHS Homecoming 2015

La Habra’s Robbie Nuse breaks to the outside in Friday night’s shutout win over Troy Friday night.

“It’s awesome to be a part of an Orange County record, I mean how many people get to say that in their lifetime,” said Frank Mazzotta, La Habra head coach.
Coincidentally, the Highlanders last Freeway League defeat came at the hands of the Warriors almost a decade ago. This week the Warriors were the unlucky recipients attached to the Highlanders record-breaking game.
For the second week in a row, the Highlanders put the game out of reach before halftime and finished with another shutout.

“We are confident, our whole team—we had no doubt that we were going to win this game tonight,” said Eric Lancaster-Garcia, wide receiver.
The Highlander defense paved the way once again, blanketing the field from sideline to sideline and delivering jarring hits all night long. The defensive unit held the Warriors to just 169 yards passing and 77 yards rushing the entire game.
Defensive end Leo Lomeli credited the coaches for putting a lot of time into making sure the defense is prepared each week. Lomeli said that the hours they log in the weight room have definitely changed their physicality too.
“We work on speed training every day at practice– our tempo gets faster and it translates to the field,” Lomeli said.
Quarterback Eric Barriere got the scoring started on the Highlanders opening drive with a 23-yard strike to a wide-open Prince Ross, who made a perfect over the shoulder grab just past the goal line.
La Habra scored one more time before the end of the quarter on a 2-yard plunge by C. J. Taylor, setup by a pair of 22-yard runs by Ross and Madison Wheeler.
Wide receiver Amon Fellows joined the party with an incredible catch and run from 27 yards out, breaking three tackles inside the 5-yard-line before stretching past the goal line.
Lancaster-Garcia provided a spark with a special teams score for the second consecutive week. The senior wide receiver’s 54-yard punt return touchdown in the second quarter put the Highlanders ahead 28-0.
“Actually we have been waiting for [Lancaster-Garcia] to get another one of those [return touchdowns] and he has the last two weeks, he’s got great speed and now we just need to unleash him a little more in the passing game,” Mazzotta said.
Lancaster-Garcia said that he is happy that he was able to contribute and credited the blocking for the big plays the past couple weeks.
“I have amazing blockers and amazing teammates, we’re like brothers,” Lancaster-Garcia said.
Troy came close to scoring on two consecutive series late in the third quarter.
Ryan Scotti gave the Warriors great field position with his 61-yard kickoff return, down to the La Habra 23-yard-line. A couple plays later, a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty on the Highlanders gave the Warriors a first down at the 12.
The Highlander defense did not bow another inch, forcing a turnover on downs right at the 12.
Just a few plays later with the Highlander second unit offense in the game, the Warriors caught a break. La Habra quarterback Zach Fogel attempted a quick kick on fourth down, but missed the ball, ultimately giving the Warriors possession inside the red zone.
Troy ended up with a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard-line, but once again, the Highlander defense refused top budge. Running back Cole Thomas tried to go off-tackle left, but Wheeler came up to fill the hole quickly and make the stop.
Wheeler also shined on offense. The two-way player added 67 total yards of offense, with 47 of them coming on a touchdown catch in the second quarter.
Much like last week, the Highlanders pulled the first unit offense after the opening drive of the second half. Despite the early exit, the Highlander offense put up 358 total yards.
Barriere finished with 168 yards passing with three touchdowns and 67 yards rushing. The senior quarterback said that he had to thank all of the past players for putting them in the position to break the record tonight.
Taylor carried the bulk of the running game, finishing with 71 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. Fellows caught three passes for 40 yards and a score. His counterpart, Ross had three catches for 61 yards and a score.
The Highlanders (9-1, 5-0) will enter the CIF playoffs next week. The matchup will be announced Sunday, and La Habra should be a No. 1 seed.

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