Highlanders stand tall against Titans in OT
By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal
Several times throughout the game it appeared the La Habra football team might be headed towards its fourth consecutive loss and second at home, but the Highlanders fought back to push it into overtime, and eventually came away with the 42-36 victory over a talented Colony team Friday night.
It was a seesaw battle all night long, with the lead changing hands by the quarter as both teams key players made big-time plays and traded their best shots.
Titan’s 6-foot-4 receiver Michael Ezeike got the better of the Highlander defense for the majority of the second half, despite blanket coverage from Derrick Corso.
“Honestly you have to shake that play off and go to the next play,” Corso said. “You just gotta keep fighting, it really came down to who wanted it more.”
And it was the 5-foot-8 Corso who stood tall late in the game, coming up with a pair of interceptions on passes intended for Ezeike down the stretch, including one in overtime.
“That’s what you are supposed to do, fight, that’s what life’s about, you aren’t always going to have an advantage, sometimes you are going to have a disadvantage but you just have to battle and fight.” Mazzotta said. “And playing DB, you have to get over it and move on to the next play.”
Corso also shined on offense, taking an option from quarterback Zach Fogel into the end zone from 72 yards out for his touchdown this season.
“I knew it was going to come sooner or later, it felt great though,” Corso said.
The Highlanders went into the half down 16-7, but quickly turned the tides when they scored three consecutive touchdowns during a six minute stretch in the third quarter.
Madison Wheeler sparked the Highlander offense to open the second half with his 44-yard touchdown run operating at quarterback in the pistol formation.
A few minutes later, Wheeler struck again with a 44-yard punt return that set up the next score, a 16-yard run by Prince Ross on an end around.
After Corso added his score, the Highlanders seemed to have a comfortable 28-16 lead nearing the end of the third quarter.
But Colony quarterback Joseph Tesimale started to get into a rhythm throwing the ball to Ezeike. The Titans roared back to take the lead thanks to Ezeike’s six catches and two touchdowns the next three drives. He also set up a third score with a 25-yard grab on a fourth-and-long play.
Nathan Tilford who came into the game already possessing a 300-yard rushing game this season, scored from nine yards out to put the Titans ahead 30-28. The Highlander defense made Tilford earn all 102 yards and two touchdowns that he finished with.
Linebacker Marcus Carrasco shadowed Tilford in pass coverage and prevented him from getting around the corner on most plays.
Carrasco also came up with a big sack late in the fourth quarter that forced the Titans to punt from their own 7-yard-line, insuring the Highlanders a chance to win it in overtime.
Despite the wealth of playmakers on both teams, perhaps none were more explosive than Fogel’s go to receiver, Ross.
Ross hauled in two catches on the night, which he turned into a pair of 60-yard touchdowns. His second touchdown catch pushed the game into overtime. Ross finished with 148 yards of total offense and three touchdowns on just five touches.
Ross said afterwards that he really worked on his hands in the offseason so that he could take advantage of every chance he got this year.
In overtime, both teams turned the ball over. After a muffed handoff gave the Titans the ball with an opportunity to win with any score, Corso picked off Tesimale in the end zone to give the Highlanders new life.
Tesimale led the Titan offense inside the 10, but Isaiah Alcocer stepped in front of another Tesimale pass in the end zone to turn the table. On first-and-ten from the 11, head coach Frank Mazzotta went back to Wheeler and the pistol.
Wheeler followed his blockers, zigging and zagging his way into the end zone for the game winning score.
“He [Wheeler] looked at me and said ‘coach I got this’, so I put him in there at the end,” Mazzotta said.
Fogel finished the game 8-18 for 185 yards and two touchdowns.
For the Titans, Tesimale threw for 224 yards and three scores, but also had three picks, 154 yards and two touchdowns went to Ezeike.
The Highlanders (2-3) begin league against Troy (3-1) on Friday October 7 at home.