Sports

La Habra Defense proves too much for Troy in close road win

By Nathan Percy

La Habra Journal

Having fought off a late surge by Troy, the La Habra football team squeaked by the Warriors 20-19 in the Freeway League opener for both teams at Fullerton High Friday night.

Defensive lineman Adrian Lomeli recorded two consecutive sacks for a combined loss of 19 yards to halt Troy’s final drive with just under a minute remaining in the fourth quarter.

“I think the defensive line has been our strength this season,” said Frank Mazzotta, La Habra head coach. “They stepped up huge at the end. To me, that’s what La Habra football means.”

The defensive line, which also consists of Greg Gaines, Tristan DeLaRosa and Michael DeArmond, swarmed Troy quarterback Kyle Blumer on his final three dropbacks to seal what was the closest victory for La Habra since the Highlanders’ last Freeway League loss to Troy in November 2006.

Defense was a big factor on both sides throughout the contest and the teams went into halftime tied at 7-7. After trading touchdowns early in the second quarter, neither offense could execute well for the remainder of the half.

La Habra got on the board first when Sean Sparling faked a handoff to Hector Islas and raced up the left side for a 10-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter.

Sparling’s touchdown capped a five-play, 48-yard drive in which all five plays covered at least 10 yards.

However, Troy answered back quickly, putting together a eight-play, 53-yard drive capped by Blumer’s eight-yard touchdown pass to Vaccher. The duo hooked up for all three of Troy’s touchdowns on the night.

Blumer and Vaccher gave the Warriors their first lead when the two combined for a 17-yard touchdown on the first drive of the second half.

After trading punts, La Habra’s backup quarterback Sebastian Salinas would spark La Habra’s offense as a running back, busting two big gains of 30 and 27 yards and scoring on the latter.

“It’s crazy what speed can do sometimes,” Mazzotta said. “He’s played running back when he was younger, I just never knew it, he was a huge boost for us tonight.”

Both teams missed the extra point on their third-quarter touchdowns, leaving the score tied at 13-13.

On La Habra’s next possession, Sparling hit wide receiver Christian Casas three times for 35 yards and with help from Salinas, La Habra systematically drove down to the Troy one-yard line.

After a false start, Gaines, the big defensive lineman and fullback, bulldozed his way for a six-yard touchdown run to give La Habra a 20-13 lead.

However, Troy would not go away easily.

After a pass interference called on La Habra’s Devon Drake, Blumer went with the same seam pattern to Vaccher up the right side and the two connected for a 30-yard touchdown with 2:37 remaining.

But the ensuing two-point conversion failed as running back Dallas Parent tried to find a hole up the middle, leaving Troy a point behind.

Again the Warriors would not die and even with two offside penalties, Troy recovered the onside kick when La Habra fumbled a fair catch.

But that’s when La Habra’s defense would take over once again.

After Troy pushed the ball up to the La Habra 41-yard line, Lomeli sacked Blumer for a 10-yard loss.

A penalty and another Lomeli sack had Troy facing a third-down-and-30 from its 34-yard line, but a facemask penalty on a third La Habra sack allowed Troy one more play.

Blumer’s pass went in and out of the hands of Parent and La Habra took over on downs, claiming the one-point victory.

Salinas led the ground game with 14 carries for 114 yards and one touchdown.

The La Habra defense forced two fumbles as Drake forced a fumble by Parent and Dreton DeArmond caused a fumble by Blumer.

Dallas Parent carried 27 times for 133 yards for Troy. Blumer completed 14-of-22 passes for 146 yards and three touchdowns.

Vaccher caught nine passes for 117 yards and three scores for the Warriors.

“I’m glad we got the win tonight, [Troy is] always tough,” Mazzotta said. “We still have a way to go though, we had a lot of missed opportunities tonight, we’re too up and down. Our offense is missing in some areas but our defense played very well tonight.”

The Highlanders will take on Sunny Hills (3-3, 0-1) at home next Friday night at 7 p.m.

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Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.