Highlanders hold off Coyotes in league opener
By Sarah Fenton
La Habra Jourmal
Buena Park couldn’t stop La Habra’s Freeway League winning streak, as the Highlanders beat the Coyotes 42-35 on the road in their season opener Friday night.
The Highlanders haven’t lost a league game since 2006, but the Coyotes weren’t going down without a fight.
Being one of the biggest matchups of the season for both teams, this was the first time La Habra (3-3, 1-0) and Buena Park (5-1,0-1) played each other in a season opener.
“We’re 1-0 in the freeway league,” said La Habra Head Coach Frank Mazzotta. “That was a 5-0 team and we got our first league victory. Coming off of a bye you never know, but I think the kids came out and performed well. I can’t argue with a league win.”
La Habra’s defense came out strong and forced Buena Park to punt on the first possession of the game.
The Highlanders made their way down the field and on fourth down quarterback Eric Barriere ran 22 yards, untouched, into the end zone. La Habra led 7-0 with less than 7 minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Seconds later, Buena Park responded with a 52-yard touchdown run from Marcus Loudon to tie the game at 7.
The game remained tied at 7 going into the second quarter.
Six seconds into the second quarter, La Habra’s Carlos Martin scored off an 11-yard run to regain the lead over Buena Park, 14-7.
Buena Park came back and tied it at 14, but La Habra fired back with a 74-yard touchdown run from Martin to regain the lead, 21-14.
The Highlanders’ defense forced the Coyotes to punt on their next possession. On third and 12 from their own 7-yard line, La Habra’s Barriere connected a pass to CJ Taylor who ran 92 yards into the end zone, giving them their biggest lead of the night.
La Habra’s two-touchdown lead didn’t last long. With a little over 20 second left in the first half, the Coyotes scored off a 5-yard pass from quarterback Zach Taylor.
La Habra led, 28-21, going into halftime.
“I think the defense had two key stops in the second half,” Mazzotta said about the turning point in the game. “We have to get stops on defense, that’s ultimately it.”
After stopping La Habra on its first possession of the third quarter, Buena Park scored once more to tie the game at 28.
With a few minutes remaining in the third quarter, La Habra was faced with a fourth and four on their own 44-yard line. After both teams took a timeout, a penalty was called against the Coyotes for illegal substitution, giving the Highlanders the first down on Buena Park’s 39-yard line.
With 34 seconds remaining in the third quarter, the Highlanders scored off a run from Martin, giving them a 35-28 lead over Buena Park. La Habra carried that lead into the fourth quarter.
After a back-and-forth start to the fourth quarter, La Habra scored to regain its two-touchdown lead over Buena Park, 42-28.
With 53 seconds remaining, Buena Park scored the last touchdown of the game. The Coyotes’ attempt at an onside kick to regain possession of the ball didn’t work, giving La Habra its 36th consecutive league win.
Carlos Martin led the Highlanders with four touchdowns and 155 rushing yards.
“It was a great game and it was a great opportunity to go against a 5-0 team,” Martin said. “We played hard and came out with a victory.”
The Highlanders’ will next host Fullerton for its homecoming game Friday night.