Highlanders wear down Warriors in Freeway League opener
By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal
FULLERTON— Behind a efficient ground attack, La Habra began Freeway League play with a 24-10 victory over Troy on Friday night at Fullerton stadium.
The Highlanders opened the game just with a picture perfect 70-yard drive, capped by a Zach Fogel touchdown run from the 6-yard-line.
“I noticed that they were really chasing our athletes, so I told coach that I could find a lane and he gave me some chances.”
Eli Anderson had three runs of over 9 yards on the drive. Fogel connected with Prince Ross for 28 yards on the lone pass he attempted to set up the score.
“It’s a big confidence booster when you are getting eight or nine yards on first down carries,” Fogel said. “The coaches put together a great scheme, I give all the credit to the coaches and the offensive line tonight.”
The Warriors ground game appeared to be working on all cylinders as well the first couple offensive series against the stout Highlander defense, but both drives stalled out after costly penalties.
Troy managed to salvage a 28-yard field goal though, to make it 7-3 heading into the second quarter.
The Highlanders ran into similar fate on both second quarter possessions, taking it all the way down inside the 1-yard-line, before a false start on third-down forced a chip shot field goal.
The Highlanders would get the ball right back after Derick Corso intercepted Josiah Norwood’s pass and returned it 33 yards to the Highlander 49-yard-line.
A couple penalties late in the ensuing drive caused La Habra to turn the ball over on downs and put up another score before the end of the half.
The Highlanders began second half with Madison Wheeler helming the pistol, but went nowhere and wound up giving Warriors great field position at the Highlander 49.
The Warriors capitalized a few plays later with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Norwood to Mikale Hill to bring them even 10-10.
La Habra responded on next series and pulled away for good.
Wheeler and Jakobah Fuamatu took turns carrying the ball inside, moving the drive all the way down inside the 10. Fogel finished the drive by connecting with Ross on a slant for a 9-yard touchdown.
The Highlanders added another score on a 2-yard run by Wheeler in the fourth quarter. Wheeler set up his touchdown when he took a fake punt 11 yards for a first down to keep the drive alive.
The Highlander defense locked down Troy’s offense the rest of the way to secure the two-score victory.
Corso had a standout defensive performance for the second consecutive game. He finished with an interception and batted down four more passes.
“[Corso] is one of the best at playing the ball in the air, he has a knack for it,” Head Coach Frank Mazzotta said.
“Preparation during the week really gives you confidence when you come out here, so you just have to be confident and know what you are doing, that’s really what it is,” Corso said.
La Habra pounded the ball inside with four different ball carriers, totaling 230 yards on the ground. Anderson dominated the first half carries and finished with 82 yards.
Mazzotta turned to Fuamatu and Wheeler to close out the game. Fuamatu didn’t have a carry in the first half, but finished with 54 yards. Most of which came in the final quarter. Wheeler finished with 51 yards and a touchdown.
The Warriors ran the ball well in stretches, but were unable to finish several drives due to penalties and a sporadic passing game. Norwood led the rushing attack for Troy with 54 yards. Skyler Taylor had 41 yards on the ground.
“We are inching our way into being a good football team, but we are not there yet,” Mazzotta said.
The Highlanders will look to make it three straight against cross town rival Sonora (0-6) at home next Friday.