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Rebuilt Raiders look to reap their redemption

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Rebuilt Raiders look to reap their redemption

Posted on 02 August 2017 by La Habra Journal

By Jay Seidel
La Habra Journal

To say last season was rough for the Sonora Raiders might be an understatement. It was a new coach with a new system working with a team that lost the majority of its veteran and skilled players.
However, second year Head Coach Daniel Morales is optimistic for this season.
“This season, we have a lot to prove,” Morales said. “We’re still a young team and staff, but I’m happy with how hard the guys have worked. We are a lot stronger and bigger this year.”
Morales noted that he has some veterans coming back, but likes what he sees in the younger players that are continuing to build their skills.
Senior Ryan Martinez will be the Raider starter at quarterback.
He will have a host of Raiders to throw to, including senior tight end Troy McDonald and receivers Josh Gonzalez and Derek Cole. He will also have Cal-committed Chigozie Anusiem who will spend time on both sides of the ball as receiver and corner.
Running back Chandler Thompson will head up the Raider ground attack, along with sophomore Ryan Loudon.
On defense, Morales said senior Tommy Mendrin should have a big year at safety. Edward Medina, Alan Huerta and Anusiem will help round out the Raider secondary.
Morales said he likes what he is seeing in his linebacking corps. Thompson and Trent Rodriguez are set to start, with others rotating in.
Morales said the Raider line is shaping up well on both sides of the ball. Anchored by Calvin Chuayiuso, Jose Lopez and all league lineman Sebastian Perez, Sonora should have an imposing front.
The Raiders will be hungry for their first win since their first-round CIF victory over Tustin in 2015.
Morales noted the Freeway League is on a different spot this year with new coaching staffs at Troy and Buena Park and a second-year coach at Sunny Hills. He said Sonora will play hard and, as long as they stay healthy, they will battle for a playoff spot.
The Raiders open up at home against Whittier High School on August 25.
Sonora looks to avenge last year’s opening-day 16-0 loss against the Cardinals (5-5,2-3). Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

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Highlanders outgunned by Nighthawks arsenal

Posted on 26 November 2016 by La Habra Journal

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

La Habra’s Cinderella CIF run came to end Friday night at home, as the Highlanders dropped a wild shootout to Murrieta Valley 62-43 in the semifinal matchup.

The Highlanders came out fired up for the CIF-SS semifinal game Friday. Photo by Matt Brown.

The normally stout Highlander defense was undone by the precision right arm of Nighthawk quarterback Hank Bachmeier and the explosive legs of running back Olita Palmer.

La Habra’s Giron and Casillias put a hit on Murrieta Valley’s Olita Palmer during Friday’s’ semifinals loss. Photo by Matt Brown.

Palmer, who began the game with just under 2000 yards on the season, carried the ball 37 times for 290 yards and reached the end zone four times. Palmer credited his offensive line and said he was just following them all night.

“This was just an emotional game, we went into the locker room like we didn’t want the season to end,” Palmer said. “We like going to practice, I like being surrounded by this group of guys and I’ll do anything for them.”

Bachmeier’s accuracy was on full display, as the sophomore completed 23-27 passes for 306 yards and five touchdowns. He also added 56 yards rushing.

“That’s a really good offense, they have everything,” said La Habra Head Coach Frank Mazzotta. “They have a good quarterback-check, running back-check, receivers-check and offensive line-check.”

Mazzotta added that there was so much talent on the field tonight that it felt like a college game, and the score reflected that.

The Highlanders actually got on the board first. On the opening drive, quarterback Zach Fogel quickly moved the offense down the field 61 yards on six plays before Madison Wheeler punched it in from three yards out.

La Habra Quarterback Zach Fogel looks for Henderson during the semifinal game. Fogel passed for 220 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed for two others. Photo by Matt Brown.

Murrieta Valley answered back right away. After each team had a pair of possessions the score was knotted at 14.

The Highlanders finally stumbled on their third possession, going three-and-out after being hit with their fourth false start penalty of the first quarter.

The Nighthawks took the lead on the next possession when Bachmeier connected with Marquis Spiker from 18 yards out for the duo’s second of three scores of the night.

The Highlanders listen to their coaches as they watch video during the CIF-SS semifinal loss to Murrieta Valley Friday. Photo by Matt Brown.

The Highlanders successfully slowed down and beat two high powered offenses, in Oaks Christian and Redlands East Valley, in the first two rounds of CIF, but had no answer for Murrieta Valley all night.

After forcing five interceptions and making key stops in critical situations the previous two weeks, the Highlanders failed to stop the Nighthawks from scoring on a single possession until they fumbled the ball with 3:09 left in the game. However, by then the game was already out of reach.

La Habra Linebacker Cameron Rivas tried to fire up the team before Friday’s game. Photo by Matt Brown.

“We took ourselves out of our element,” said linebacker and leading tackler Camron Rivas. “It’s not all about X’s and O’s, it’s about who wants it more and they wanted it more tonight.”

Rivas had double digit tackles in all three playoff games this season, picking up right where he left off in 2015, when Rivas was named the divisional Defensive Player of the Year in CIF Southern Section.

“I would never point the finger at our defense at all,” Fogel said. “They are playing the best ball they have played in a long time, I think our

La Habra’s Zach Fogel and Madison Wheeler celebrate in the end zone after a score Friday night. Photo by Matt Brown.

defense has some great leaders and is full of fighters, but Murrieta just had more playmakers tonight.”

La Habra’s offensive unit was impressive as well, scoring on six of the first eight possessions.

Fogel threw for 220 yards with two touchdowns and added 92 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, including a 44-yard keeper that he took into the end zone untouched that tied the game at 21 early in the second quarter.

Prince Ross caught three passes for 78 yards and a touchdown. Ross also broke free for an 80 yard touchdown run a few minutes before halftime to bring the Highlanders within a score. But the Nighthawks wound up adding another score with just :18 left in the second quarter to make it 42-28 at the half. La Habra kept pace, but couldn’t cut it below two scores the rest of the way.

Wheeler ran the ball effectively for the third consecutive week, but because La Habra was playing from behind the entire second half, Mazzotta

La Habra’s hard-fought season comes to an end with a 62-43 loss to Murrieta Valley in the CIF-SS semifinal game Friday. Photo by Matt Brown.

couldn’t stick with the running game as much as he would have liked to. Wheeler collected 91 yards and a touchdown on just eight carries, and added 27 yards receiving.

“I’m so proud of how much we improved this year,” Mazzotta said. “This team was so much fun, they came to practice everyday and worked their asses off, they were really a lot of fun to be around.”

The Highlanders end the season at 8-5, one game shy of a rematch with San Clemente for the chance at back-to-back CIF titles, so they were understandably downtrodden afterwards. However coming in to the playoffs as the No. 14 seed, the 2016 Highlander football team far-exceeded expectations in the CIF tournament.

“It’s a bitter-sweet moment right now, I’m blessed that I had an opportunity to do this for four years and to do it at the level I did it at,” Rivas said afterwards reflecting on his final game. “I just want thank my coaches, thank my teammates and thank God most importantly, I’m truly grateful and truly blessed, I can’t even say how much I love this place.”

“The hardest thing about this is seeing my guys and knowing how hard we fought, but I couldn’t be more proud of my guys,” Fogel added. “I think we really grew as a brotherhood this year.”

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Highlanders tame Wildcats to advance to semifinal game

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Highlanders tame Wildcats to advance to semifinal game

Posted on 19 November 2016 by La Habra Journal

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

Highlighted by a stifling first half and a pair of late interceptions, the La Habra defense

La Habra's Madison Wheeler brushes off a Wildcat defender during the Higlanders' 31-21 victory at home Friday.

Photo by Jay Seidel/La Habra Journal                   La Habra’s Madison Wheeler brushes off a Wildcat defender during the Higlanders’ 31-21 victory at home Friday.

frustrated another prolific offense Friday night, defeating Redlands East Valley 31-21 to advance to the CIF semifinals.

La Habra took the lead on the opening drive and never relinquished it, thanks to a suffocating defense that forced REV to a three-and-out on all-but two drives in the first half.

The Highlanders took a commanding 24-7 lead into the break, after limiting the Wildcats to just 15 yards on the ground and quarterback Armando Herrera to just 87 yards and one touchdown through the air in the first half.

“We have the best defensive coordinators in the nation, I really believe that,” said linebacker Camron Rivas, the Highlanders leading tackler. “Every week he puts together a great gameplan.”

Just six plays into the game, quarterback Zach Fogel tossed a zero screen to Pervis Henderson, who made one man miss and blazed down the sideline for a 69-yard score.

Photo by Jay Seidel/La Habra Journal          La Habra Quarterback Zach Fogel throws downfield to a receiver.

Photo by Jay Seidel/La Habra Journal                                                  La Habra Quarterback Zach Fogel throws downfield to a receiver.

The next possession saw Fogel toss another zero screen for a big gain. This time it was Derrick Corso taking one 35 yards to set up his eventual score from 11 yards out.

Scoring on the first two drives of the game was all attributed to my coaching, and their ability to come out with a plan that works,” Fogel said. “That’s what our coaches are so good at, they know exactly what to do at what time.”

Fogel to executed an intelligent game plan with quick passes and a lot of read option plays to neutralize two of the best pass rushers in the country, Jaelan Phillips and Aaron House.

“We have a motto, it’s not about who you are playing, it’s about who you are,” Fogel said.

Phillips and House entered the game with a combined 34 sacks. House notched the only sack for the duo all night, but the play was negated by a facemask penalty.

Head coach Frank Mazzotta said afterward that he knew coming into the season that Fogel was a tough kid with a great work ethic, but he has seen his quarterback’s decision making and intelligence on the field steadily improve throughout the season.

Photo by Jay Seidel/La Habra Journal       La Habra sophomore cornerback Kalani Washington launches as Wildcat defender in La Habra's 31-21 win Friday.

Photo by Jay Seidel/La Habra Journal        La Habra sophomore cornerback Kalani Washington launches as Wildcat defender in La Habra’s 31-21 win Friday.

The Highlander defense put the game away for good after forcing turnovers on three consecutive series.

“La Habra always has a good defense, but this team is doing something special,” Fogel said.

Alan Giron sealed the victory with a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown with just under three minutes to play in the third quarter.

Marcus Carrasco blocked a 38-yard field goal attempt and for good measure, Isaiah Alcocer picked off Herrera in the back of the end zone on the Wildcats next two possessions.

Fogel finished the game with 204 yards(190 coming in the first half), and two touchdowns.

Madison Wheeler rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown, while the entire Wildcat team only gained 46 yards on the ground.

Photo by Jay Seidel/La Habra Journal.  La Habra runningback Madison Wheeler pushes off Wildcat defender in La Habra's 31-21 victory over Redlands East Vallet Firday.

Photo by Jay Seidel/La Habra Journal.                  La Habra runningback Madison Wheeler pushes off Wildcat defender in La Habra’s 31-21 victory over Redlands East Valley Firday.

Following the tough loss to Buena Park, Mazzotta pointed out how the team would learn from their defeat and get better. Since then, the Highlanders have played by far their best football of the season.

“A loss doesn’t define us,” Mazzotta added. “One thing the kids do is show up everyday, they work hard and try to get better every day.”

La Habra (8-4) will host the semifinal matchup against Murrieta Valley next Friday at 7 p.m. No. 2 Murrieta Valley (10-2) is coming off 63-34 blowout over St. Bonaventure. No. 14 La Habra is the lowest seed to make the semifinal round in all of CIF.

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Highlanders battle, check Lions off the list

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Highlanders battle, check Lions off the list

Posted on 12 November 2016 by La Habra Journal

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

Photo by Paul Luna

Photo by Paul Luna — La Habra’s Madison Wheeler pushes through a Lions defender as the Highlanders beat Oaks Christian in CIF playoffs Friday night on the road. Wheeler had 233 yards on 37 carries.

The La Habra football team entered the opening round of CIF in an unfamiliar position, as an underdog on the road, but that didn’t stop the Highlanders from doing what they have done for 18 years under Frank Mazzotta, win CIF playoff games.


The Highlanders saved their best showing of the season for when in counted, upsetting No. 3 Oaks Christian 35-28 at Westlake Village Friday night.

In a game that had been blow-for-blow from the onset La Habra found itself on the road, down a score with under four minutes to go.

Trailing 28-21 and facing a 4th-and-7, quarterback Zach Fogel scrambled out of the pocket and made an Aaron Rogers-like jump throw across his body, connecting with Derrick Corso who cut all the way back across the field for a 17-yard score to tie the game with 3:18 to play.

Alex Alcocer continued turning the tide in La Habra’s favor when he picked off Matt Corral on the following possession, setting up the game winning score.

Photo by Paul Luna

Photo by Paul Luna — La Habra Quarterback Zach Fogel looks for an open receiver. The Highlanders beat Oaks Christian on the road Friday in the first round of CIF playoffs.

Fogel took the first snap, read the triple-option perfectly and found Prince Ross wide open in the back of the end zone from 21 yards out to give La Habra the lead with a couple minutes left.

Despite the one score lead, there was still plenty of time left for a Corral led passing attack that had already burned the Highlanders on big plays all game long.

Enter Mr. Corso. Already owning a pair of touchdown catches on offense, the senior shifted his playmaking skills to the defensive side for his third act. On the Lions ensuing drive, Corso picked off Corral at midfield with :45 left to seal the hardfought victory for the Highlanders some 67 miles away from home.

The Highlanders picked off the Corral three times Friday night, which is newsworthy considering the USC commit had only thrown three all season coming into the game. Isaac Soto Morales’ interception just before halftime set up the Highlanders third score.

Madison Wheeler carried the Highlander offense on his back to the tune of 160 yards and a touchdown in the first half. The Lions knew Wheeler was going to get the ball, but just couldn’t stop the two-way workhorse.

Photo by Paul Launa

Photo by Paul Launa — Senior Receiver Prince Ross pulls down a Zach Fogel pass in the end zone for the Highlanders’ go-ahead score against Oaks Christian Friday in Westlake Village.

Wheeler’s dominance running the ball early allowed Fogel to pick the Lions apart in critical situations the rest of the way. He finished with a whopping 233 yards on 37 carries.

Fogel finished with four touchdowns on the night (3 pass, 1 rush), and seemed to make the right decisions all night long.

For the past three weeks, Mazzotta has talked about his quarterback’s steady improvement, pointing out Fogel’s 4.8 GPA and toughness.

Even when the junior quarterback made a mistake, it helped the Highlanders. Fogel’s lone interception came on a 4th-and-long play with nobody open downfield, so it basically amounted to a 20-yard punt instead of a sack or incomplete pass.

Prince Ross caught the go-ahead touchdown pass and had 136 total yards.

La Habra (7-4) will travel about the same distance, but in the opposite direction to play Redlands East Valley (9-2), next Friday at 7:30 p.m. Redlands is coming off a 41-30 opening round win over Great Oak.

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Highlanders continue to rally for fellow classmate

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Highlanders continue to rally for fellow classmate

Posted on 07 October 2016 by La Habra Journal

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

With the sun setting on a Friday evening in late August, the La Habra football team captains make their way across the gridiron to midfield, marching shoulder to shoulder with their stomachs undoubtedly full of butterflies and adrenaline ratcheted up for the Highlanders forthcoming kickoff of the long-anticipated 2017 season opener.

Photo by Miguel Pola Diego Strong: La Habra football player Diego Sanchez was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma last year. The Highlander family has rallied in support of Sanchez's fight and declared themselves DiegoStrong.

Photo by Miguel Pola
Diego Strong: La Habra football player Diego Sanchez was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma last year. The Highlander family has rallied in support of Sanchez’s fight and declared themselves DiegoStrong.

In just a few minutes, three quarters of the captains will finally get the opportunity to sprint down the field in their first game since last season’s CIF Championship victory.
One Highlander captain, however, won’t crack the field tonight. Senior lineman and long-snapper Diego Sanchez was forced to swap his pads for pressed khakis and a blue polo so that he could tackle a bigger battle off the field—cancer.
Since his diagnosis in March, Sanchez has been fighting every day. But he hasn’t fought it alone. Coining the term “DiegoStrong,” the entire La Habra Highlander community has rallied around Sanchez with overwhelming support.
After struggling with what was originally thought to be a sprained ankle, Sanchez’s mom, Celeste was concerned the injury wasn’t getting any better, so she pressed the doctors to take another look.
After multiple requests, she finally convinced the doctor to order an MRI. What Celeste didn’t realize at the time, was her persistence might just have saved her son’s life.
“The [doctor] told me ‘there might be something shadowing your bone, you might have a tumor,’ so they took a biopsy from a bone in my foot,” Sanchez said. “Afterwards they told me, ‘you have Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, otherwise known as NHL.’”
By the time they discovered it, the cancer had spread to his extremities, as well as his lymph nodes.
“My mom was the one who fought for the doctors to do an MRI,” Sanchez said. “If she wouldn’t have fought for the MRI, it would have pushed me back further and probably spread even more, so I thank God for her everyday.”
The gravity of the news didn’t hit Sanchez the way most would think though. Everything took a backseat to his desire to be back on the field.
“The first thing I thought when I woke up was, man I can’t even play football anymore,” he said.

Photo by Miguel Pola

Photo by Miguel Pola

“I miss the competition, it’s man on man trying to see who has the willpower to win” Sanchez said. “I miss being here at school with all my friends, and I especially miss playing under the lights, it’s the best feeling in the world.”
As it would anybody, the news initially floored the family. Sanchez said that his dad, Diego Sr. was the rock of the family following the initial diagnosis and has stayed incredibly strong for the family throughout the past six months.
“My dad is my biggest supporter, he’s my best friend,” Sanchez said. “I thought he was going to be disappointed, like I was, because I couldn’t play football, but he was the one to keep it together for all of us.”
Another one of Sanchez’s biggest supporters at La Habra has been his longtime friend and All-CIF softball standout, Kira Cauley. After learning of her good friend’s diagnosis, Cauley prompted the entire softball team to wear “DiegoStrong” throughout the rest of the season.
“Me and Diego have been close since the seventh grade, so when we found out, it really hit me hard, so I just wanted to let him know we all had his back,” Cauley said. “He also supports me, he is my biggest fan, during softball season, he would always text me telling me to have a good game.”
“Kira has been my friend for a long time, we used to sit together in all of our classes since junior high,” Sanchez said. “Her and her family have been so supportive.”
December will mark nine straight months of chemotherapy for Sanchez. Just a couple weeks ago his doctors kept him in the hospital for five days straight during his treatment, to monitor his white blood cell count.
That didn’t keep him from the field Friday though. Shortly after being released, Sanchez was once again walking to midfield shoulder to shoulder with his fellow captains under the lights. And he hasn’t missed a Friday this season.
“Everything is going according to plan, according to the last scan there was a decrease so we are going in the right direction,” Sanchez said. “I did have them in my lymph nodes before, but according to the last scan, they are gone.”
Sanchez plans to get back to football as soon as February, to participate in a long-snapper camp that he has attended since his sophomore season.
His oncologist told him that he was on track for February, but he still needs to get the green light from his foot-specialist.
Until he can get back to playing, he will still continue to support the Highlanders every game, and the Highlanders will continue to support Sanchez and show that they are forever “Diego Strong.”

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Highlanders stand tall against Titans in OT

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Highlanders stand tall against Titans in OT

Posted on 24 September 2016 by La Habra Journal

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.

Photo By Miguel Pola Senior Madison Wheeler zig-zags his way into end zone from 11 yds out to give La Habra the 42-36 OT victory

Senior Madison Wheeler zig-zags his way into end zone from 11 yds out to give La Habra the 42-36 OT victory — Photo by Miguel Pola

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.

La Habra's Alan Giron makes a great run in the first quarter against Colony High School.—Photo by Miguel Pola

La Habra’s Alan Giron makes a great run in the first quarter against Colony High School.—Photo by Miguel Pola

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.

La Habra Freshman Jacobah Fuamatu ends the first half with a 30-yard run. —Photo by Miguel Pola

La Habra Freshman Jacobah Fuamatu ends the first half with a 30-yard run. —Photo by Miguel Pola

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.

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Highlanders undone by Griffins’ big plays

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Highlanders undone by Griffins’ big plays

Posted on 16 September 2016 by La Habra Journal

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

La Habra uncharacteristically gave up a handful of long touchdown runs early and dropped its third consecutive game at the hands of an explosive Los Alamitos offense Friday night.

La Habra running back Eli Anderson looks to run past Los Alamitos defenders Friday night at La Habra. Photo by Miguel Pola

La Habra running back Eli Anderson looks to run past Los Alamitos defenders Friday night at La Habra. Photo by Miguel Pola

Los Alamitos came into the contest motivated by the lingering image of La Habra’s last-second hail mary touchdown victory over them a season ago.

The Highlanders once again scored on the last play of the game. However, there was no miracle this time, just a 40-29 final score prompting the visiting Griffin fans to rush the field.

Dylan Laurent burned the Highlanders with three long first-half touchdowns of 51, 62 and 74 yards, and finally put the game out of reach late in the fourth quarter with a 30-yard score. Laurent finished with 183 yards on the ground and four touchdowns.

“Our guys are really talented,” said Ray Fenton, Griffins head coach. “We have some big time athletes, Dylan Laurent I think is outstanding, he is a special player.”

The Griffins built a first half lead with a pair of special teams scores.

“We think special teams is an opportunity to score and we have always felt that way,” Fenton said.

Laurent’s first score came on a 51-yard punt return to make it 13-0 with a minute left in the first quarter.

La Habra Coach Framk Mazzota and the Highlander team analyze some game video during Friday's home game against Los Alamitos. Photo by Miguel Pola.

La Habra Coach Framk Mazzota and the Highlander team analyze some game video during Friday’s home game against Los Alamitos. Photo by Miguel Pola.

Early in the second quarter with the Highlanders in the red zone, Madison Wheeler ran the offense from the pistol and leaped over the pile for a 1-yard touchdown to make it a one-score game.

Keanu Norman took the ensuing kickoff back 81 yards for the touchdown.

Zach Fogel led the Highlanders back down the field and set up another Wheeler touchdown from inside the red zone.

The Griffins answered back just two plays later with a 74-yard score by Laurent leaving the Highlanders down 33-14 at the half.

The Highlander defense tightened up and nearly kept the Griffins off the scoreboard the entire second half, until Laurent put his stamp on the game with the final score.

“We just dug ourselves a hole we couldn’t get out of tonight,” said Frank Mazzotta, La Habra head coach.

Fogel got off to a lackluster start against the Griffins, but began to connect with Prince Ross in the second quarter and finished 13-24 for 179 yards with a touchdown, a fumble and one interception. Ross had his best performance of the season with 119 yards and a touchdown.

Photo by Miguel Pola

Photo by Miguel Pola

Freshman Jacobah Fuamatu saw action at running back for the Highlanders and scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Mazzotta said he has been looking for opportunities to get Fuamatu more carries because he loves his running style and feels that he will just keep getting better with more game experience.

“You got to punish the defense, you have to run into the defense and make them not want to tackle you late in the game,” Mazzotta said. “That’s what I love about Jacobah, he runs hard.”

The Highlanders will be at home again next Friday taking on Colony High School.

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Highlanders Hiccup

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Highlanders Hiccup

Posted on 13 September 2015 by La Habra Journal

A pair of costly turnovers late by the Highlanders sealed the victory for the Diablos.

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

The La Habra Highlanders took advantage of home field early looking to make it three straight wins to start the season on Friday night, but a resilient Mission Viejo team fought back and secured their own plan to stay unbeaten 24-14.

LHJ LHHS vs MV FB 2015

Senior Amon Fellows breaks tackles Friday night against Mission Viejo. Photo by Jay Seidel

Following back-to-back blowout victories to begin the season, the Highlanders (2-1) looked like they were picking up right where they left off. The offense moved the ball seamlessly down the field on the 80-yard opening drive that finished with a 10-yard sweep by running back Cortlin Taylor strolling untouched into the end zone to put them on the scoreboard.

The Diablos (4-0) answered back with an equally impressive drive just a few minutes later, finished off with a similar sweep right by Jordan Loya for the 14 yard score to tie the game.

With the game tied in the second quarter, both defenses began to tighten up.

Quarterback Eric Barriere drove the Highlanders inside the 10-yard line, but on third and goal tossed an errant throw into the back of the end zone that the Diablos picked off.

The La Habra defense erased the turnover, forcing Mission Viejo to punt after just three downs.

The Diablos forced a Barriere fumble on the next possession, giving the Diablos the ball at midfield.

Trying to cash in on the turnover, Mission Viejo moved the ball all the way to the 6-yard-line setting up a first and goal. However, the Highlanders defense stiffened up as at least four different blue and white jerseys swarmed quarterback Brock Johnson for the sack on third down, forcing a 35-yard field goal seconds before the half expired.

Senior Eric Beriere pushes away a would-be tackler Friday night against Mission Viejo. Photo by Jay Seidel

Senior Eric Barriere pushes away a would-be tackler Friday night against Mission Viejo. Photo by Jay Seidel

The Diablos caught the Highlanders flat footed after halftime with an 80-yard strike from Johnson to wide receiver Austin Osborne for the touchdown, extending their lead 17-7.

La Habra answered back with a 12-play drive capped by a slant into the end zone from Barriere to wide receiver Gio Pavon bringing them with a field goal at 17-14.

On the Diablos next drive, Johnson got into a rhythm with wide receiver Jason Lee, connecting with him on four straight. However, on a critical fourth and eight, inside the red zone, Jacob Colacion stepped in front of Lee and picked Johnson off.

With four minutes to play, the Diablos pinned the Highlanders back on the 3-yard-line with a perfectly executed corner punt. La Habra was within a touchdown of the lead with just enough time for a miracle comeback.

La Habra's XX  makes a catch under pressure Friday night against Mission Viejo. Photo by Jay Seidel

La Habra’s Aamon Fellows makes a catch under pressure Friday night against Mission Viejo. Photo by Jay Seidel

Before the Highlanders drive even got started, Diablos linebacker Colin Shooler jumped in front of a routine check down throw to the flat by Barriere and took it 27 yards into the end zone, all but sealing the victory for the visitors.

Highlanders Head Coach Frank Mazzotta said he was disappointed, but realized the game would have been much different if his team would have cleaned up just a couple mistakes.

“The difference in the game was the turnovers by us and we didn’t catch a few balls that we should have,” Mazzotta said.

It appears La Habra could be closing the gap. The last time La Habra and Mission Viejo met, the Diablos ran away with it 49-20. Tonight was a much different type of contest.

“It’s always encouraging to see our guys come out and play tough and physical like they did tonight,” Mazzotta said, “but we have to correct the mistakes if we want to be a great team.”

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Highlanders ready to keep rolling

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Highlanders ready to keep rolling

Posted on 03 August 2015 by La Habra Journal

By Shanin Thomas
La Habra Journal

The tradition continues. That is the motto of La Habra High School Varsity Football and according to Head Coach Frank Mazzotta, there is no magic formula to La Habra Football’s winning tradition.
Coach Mazzotta has been coaching the varsity football team for 16 seasons. Those seasons include 13 freeway league championships, 14 CIF playoff appearances, and 7 championship appearances while taking home the trophy in six of them.
Additionally, over 45 former high school athletes under Coach Mazzotta have taken their talents to a number of diverse universities to obtain college degrees.
“I have been really lucky to have great kids,” Mazzotta said. “With a hand full of exceptional athletes.”
Mazzotta also gives credit to his coaching staff who have accompanied him through the multiple successful seasons. He said they “built this tradition together.”
The Highlanders completed their last week of camp with a passing league tournament on July 11 and will now head into a three week break.
Mazzotta said he is excited to start playing again because of immense amount of experience and talent in several returners.
He expects them to do the same thing they have been doing while becoming stronger, more experienced, and more confident on either side of the ball.
Last season the La Habra Highlanders went undefeated in the Freeway league and ended with an overall record of 7–4.
Quarterback Eric Barriere, last year’s league MVP, will be returning for his senior season with the Highlanders. Leadership on the other side of the ball can be found in senior linebacker Jake Colacion, who recently committed to the University of Arizona.
Mazzotta not only spoke of the three starting years of Barriere’s dominating skill set on the offensive side, he also mentioned that most of his offensive talent will be returning bigger and stronger. The only shoes to fill are the graduated and explosive running back, Carlos Martin, he said.
One idea Coach Mazzotta has in mind is moving All-CIF linebacker, Colacion, to running back next season. Colacion grew up playing on the offensive side and the transition should be easy for him, he said.
As always, Mazzotta scheduled a tough pre-league for the Highlanders.
“There is just a desire to compete and it brings out the best,” he said.
Some of the dangerous teams the Highlanders will be facing early include Mission Viejo, South Hills, and Colony. La Habra’s season will kick off with an away game against top program, El Toro, on August 28th.
With the new season come new equipment deals.
The Highlanders decided to drop previous Nike gear, equipment, and jerseys that included the color black. This season audiences will see an Adidas uniform featuring Highlander blue and gray.
And when it comes to the tradition and the hopes that its success continues, Coach Mazzotta said, “I’m happy and enjoying it. It all comes down to the people I am around in this great community.”

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Cougars upset Highlanders in first round

Posted on 14 November 2014 by La Habra Journal

By Sarah Fenton
La Habra Journal

La Habra’s playoff-run was cut short after a tough first round loss to Capistrano Valley, 44-42, at home Friday night.


“They did a good job,” said La Habra head coach Frank Mazzotta about Capistrano Valley. “They’re in a good league, they have a good team and they can do that.”LHHS vs CVHS 2014


The Highlanders (7-4) led 28-21 going into halftime and started the second half by returning the kickoff for a touchdown, but the Cougars (8-3) added on 20-points in the fourth quarter to regain the lead and secure the win.


“I think we got outplayed a little bit tonight but that’s the nature of the playoffs, they’re all good teams,” Mazzotta said.


Capistrano Valley started the game on top with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Gavin Pruett to Trevor Wise.


Minutes later, La Habra’s Eric Barriere faked a handoff to Carlos Martin and ran the ball in to tie the game at seven.


With under five minutes remaining in the first quarter, Martin ran 15-yards into the end zone to give the Highlanders the lead, 14-7.


At the end of the first quarter, Capistrano Valley recovered a La Habra fumble and scored shortly after off a touchdown pass from Pruett to Adam Gordon to tie the game at 14.


The game remained tied going into the second quarter.


The Highlanders regained the lead early in the second quarter when Barriere connected a touchdown pass to Martin in the back of the end zone.LHHS vs CVHS 2014


La Habra’s defense held the Cougars until Jordan Bocko scored off an 18-yard run for Capistrano Valley to tie the game at 21 with less than four minutes remaining in the second quarter.


The Highlanders regained the lead at the end of the first half when Barriere scored off a 13-yard run. La Habra led 28-21 going into halftime.


La Habra advanced its score to a two-touchdown lead when Eric Lancaster-Garcia ran the second half kickoff back 96-yards into the end zone.


The Cougars added three points to their score when Gordon kicked a 27-yard field goal, but still trailed La Habra, 35-24, going into the fourth quarter.

Seconds into the fourth quarter, Bocko scored off a touchdown run for the Cougars and added on a two-point conversion to make it a three-point game.


The Cougars regained the lead, 39-35, with a 28-yard touchdown pass from Pruett to Gordon.


Under pressure, Barriere was sacked in the end zone giving the Cougars another two-points to add to their lead.


Gordon kicked another field goal for Capistrano Valley to advance its lead to 44-35.LHHS vs CVHS 2014


La Habra made its way down the field and regained momentum when Barriere connected a touchdown pass to Edrick Flores with 42 seconds remaining in the game.


Trailing by two, the Highlanders couldn’t recover the onside kick and fell to the Cougars, 44-42.


The Highlanders went undefeated in the Freeway league, which advanced their record to 40 consecutive league wins, and clinched their eighth consecutive league title.


“I’m proud of the guys because nobody thought we’d even be league champions,” Mazzotta said. “The word around town was that this was the year to get La Habra in the Freeway league. The kids didn’t and we got better and better.”LHHS vs CVHS 2014

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