Improbable finish lifts Highlanders
By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal
LONG BEACH—La Habra quarterback Eric Barriere connected with Eric Lancaster-Garcia on a hail mary with no time on the clock to defeat Los Alamitos, merely seconds after being stunned by a touchdown and two-point conversion by the Griffins to cap off a their second half surge at Memorial Stadium in Long Beach on Friday night.
“We just talked about getting those guys in the end zone, having Eric buy some time and give us a chance,” said Highlanders Coach Frank Mazzotta.
Within seconds, the entire Highlander team and faithful fans who made the trip to Long Beach rushed into the end zone surrounding their new hero, Lancaster-Garcia.
“I just knew it could be anybody’s ball and I had to go up and get it,” Lancaster-Garcia said. “It’s very overwhelming, but I’m just glad I was able to do it.”
With just 47 seconds to play, Griffins quarterback Jack Telenko connected with Drew Platt for a two-point conversion giving them their first lead of the game.
La Habra took the ball over inside their own 20, but things went from bad to worse for the Highlanders. The Griffins defense sacked Barriere back at the 8-yard-line setting up a third-down with the length of the field to go and under 30 seconds on the game clock. The probability of a last second comeback became increasingly improbable. Two quick throws underneath against the Griffins prevent defense brought the Highlanders all the way up to the Griffins 45-yard-line with 8 seconds remaining.
That is when Barriere made play one would have to see to believe. As he had been doing all game long, he scrambled avoiding a couple tacklers near the Griffins sideline, planted right and aired it out diagonally across the field towards the far pylon connecting with his senior wide receiver Lancaster-Garcia, who leaped up through a crowded end zone to make the grab for the 37-32 game winning score.
“I just wanted to make a play for my team,” Barriere said. “Coming into the game I felt really good, I knew if we had one final shot that we would win this.”
The Highlanders entered week-three still stinging from a tough loss to Mission Viejo just one week ago. Realizing the importance of dropping two straight they opened the game sharp, establishing a 24-7 halftime lead.
Similar to the previous week though, the Highlanders came out of the locker room flat, coming just seconds away from squandering a nearly flawless first half of play.
Just before halftime, the Griffins came up with a big stop that kept them in the game and provided a much needed boost to their confidence. The Highlanders had the ball, first and goal from inside the 10 with less than a minute to go. The Griffins defense clamped down and forced consecutive incomplete passes in the back of the end zone, keeping them within reach.
Telenko got into a rhythm and began spreading the ball around well in the second half, connecting with five different receivers more than once.
Both sides were hurt with costly penalties. The Highlanders were hit with four penalties on their first two drives of the second half. Griffins running back Schuyler Whitehead had a touchdown called back on a holding call, forcing them to settle for a field goal.
Whitehead led the Griffins on the ground with a pair of touchdowns.
Barriere played a significantly improved game from his showing a week ago, finishing with zero turnovers and a pair of touchdowns, one through the air and one on the ground.
Mazzotta pointed out after the game that it could have been an even bigger day thoug, as Highlander receivers dropped five perfectly thrown passes– at least three of which would have found the end zone.
Mazzotta knew his team was in for another battle this week playing against Los Alamitos. He praised the Griffins and the play of their quarterback, Telenko in the second half.
“It was two really good football teams going at it and it actually came down to the last play, it was amazing,” Mazzotta said.
La Habra (3-1) will be back in action Thursday in Ontario against Colony (1-1).