Highlanders ace early test against El Toro
LAKE FOREST – The La Habra football team met early expectations of a great season with a 26-3 victory over the El Toro Chargers, Friday night at Trabuco Hills High.
The game started off with its fair share of ups and downs. The opening kickoff was returned to the 48 yard line by La Habra’s Miles Robertson. However, the drive went for a 10 yard net loss, and La Habra was forced to punt.
El Toro then drove the ball down to the 15-yard line after the punt, but could not convert on a 32 yard field goal. The Highlanders then took over at the 20-yard line.
Sophomore quarterback Eric Barriere made his varsity debut and did not disappoint. On the first play of the drive, Barriere unleashed a bomb down field that was caught by Edrick Flores who ran it in to complete and 80-yard touchdown play. The point-after-attempt was blocked, so the lead was 6-0.
“I felt really good after the game,” said Barriere. “The coaches told me to go out there and be myself, and really helped take some of the pressure off me.”
Even though the scoreboard did not show it, El Toro’s offense did a solid job of moving the ball downfield. The Chargers’ ensuing drive started at the 28-yard-line and made its way into the red zone, as quarterback Trey Tinsley picked apart the La Habra defense.
After an amazing catch by Dominic Collins on a 22-yard pass from Tinsley, the Chargers took a shot at the end zone. The pass was intercepted by Mike Willer inside the one-yard line.
La Habra then had to punt, and El Toro drove the ball back inside the 5-yard line, as the first quarter wound down. The Highlanders forced the Chargers to settle for a field goal and Aaron Ball nailed a 22-yarder to cut the lead deficit to 6-3 after the first quarter.
The Highlanders completed a 46-yard pass early in the second that was called back for a holding penalty. The biggest red flag for the Highlanders seemed to be penalties and they had a lot of big plays called back.
“Our discipline was definitely a problem,” said head coach Frank Mazzotta. “We had some personal fouls and had some big plays called back.”
La Habra decided to go for the first down on some fourth down plays in the second and were unable to capitalize on a pair of fourth-and-long plays. One of them allowed El Toro to take over at the La Habra 26-yard-line, but Tinsley threw an interception on the first play. Devon Drake returned it for a touchdown, but once again it was called back because of a penalty.
Late in the second, Tinsley threw another pick to Jackson Willard, and he returned it 60 yards to the El Toro 20-yard-line, with just over a minute remaining. The first play of the drive was a 20-yard touchdown pass from Barriere to Christian Casas. La Habra took a 13-3 lead into the third quarter.
The second half was more of the same for La Habra. On their first drive of the second half, Barriere connected with Casas again, this time for a 51-yard-score. The PAT was missed and La Habra took a 19-3 lead.
Casas finished the game with 81 yards receiving out of Barriere’s 188 yards. He also caught two out of the three touchdown passes.
“I thought I played okay,” said the senior wide receiver. “I felt a little slower than usual tonight.”
The score remained the same until midway through the fourth quarter. Defensive tackle Greg Gaines took a handoff on a short yardage play from the 16-yard-line and bulldozed his way through the Charger defense for a touchdown. A PAT from Willard concluded the scoring.
The Highlanders will look to improve to 2-0, as they take on La Mirada, next Friday at La Mirada, at 7 p.m.
“The best part was we didn’t even play very well,” said Mazzotta.