Tag Archive | "Football"

Phillips shines as La Habra spoils Colony homecoming

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Phillips shines as La Habra spoils Colony homecoming

Posted on 23 September 2017 by La Habra Journal

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

Sophomore cornerback Clark Phillips III returned three interceptions for touchdowns to key La Habra’s 49-14 blowout victory over Colony High School in Ontario Friday night.

“I ate a lot [for breakfast] today, eggs, bacon, grits, sausage and I just prayed for a good game,” Phillips said, when asked how he prepared for his breakout game. “I just want to thank god for this awesome opportunity and the coaches for giving me the opportunity.”

Photo by Paul Luna – La Habra sophomore cornerback Clark Phillips III with one of his three interceptions against Colony Friday.

 

Phillips also feasted on fellow sophomore, quarterback Marco Gonzalez, who entered the game midway through the Titans opening drive after starter Joseph Tesimale left with an apparent knee injury.

After Gonzalez lead the Titans the rest of the way down the field and inched over the goal line on 4th down to take an early lead, the Titan offense appeared to not skip a beat.

But Phillips intercepted Gonzalez on the Titans next possession and returned it 38 yards down the sideline to tie the game at 7-7 midway through the first quarter.

After the Highlanders took a narrow 21-14 lead into halftime, Phillips spurred a 28-point third quarter surge with two more interception returns.

Quarterback Zack Fogel lead the Highlanders down the field on the opening drive of the half connecting with Deavyn Woullard, who made a diving catch in the back of the end zone for a 45-yard score– the first of their two touchdowns in the quarter.

Photo By Paul Luna -Highlander Quarterback Zack Fogel throws a pass in La Habra’s road win Friday against Colony High School.

Phillips followed with his most miraculous play of the night, leaping up to grab an Gonzalez’s overthrown pass with one hand and streaking down the sideline 42 yards for the score to make it 35-14 just three minutes into the third quarter.

Phillips said afterwards that his ball skills and return ability come from playing offense his whole life. He has only been playing cornerback since coming to high school. Prior to that, he had always played running back.

Head coach Frank Mazzotta has taken notice, finding ways to get Phillips increasingly involved on the offensive side of the ball as the season goes on as well.

After Fogel found Woullard again for a 17-yard touchdown, Phillips pulled a pick-six hat-trick with a 60-yard touchdown, again streaking down the La Habra sideline–this time waving bye as he accelerated past the Titans 6’5” wide receiver Michael Ezeike.

Fogel’s night was far more impressive than his modest 92 yards and two touchdowns suggest.

The senior quarterback was accurate all night, but the Highlander receivers had a case of the drops early on, including three in a row that stalled the opening drive of the game.

“I’m telling you right now, [Fogel] has struggled throwing the ball in the past,” Mazzotta said. “But Zack has gotten a lot better and you saw that tonight, this is a culmination of 18 games starting now and the ball is in the right places, he threw it with some velocity and hit people in the hands–that’s what I’m most happy about honestly.”

“Obviously the time helps, experience makes everyone better especially at the quarterback position,” Fogel said. “The coaching is just superb, we watch a lot of film and honestly you don’t want to be your best week-one, we want to be our best in the playoffs, so we’re just trying to get closer to that each week.”

Photo by Paul Luna – a Habra sophomore cornerback Clark Phillips III runs back one of his three interceptions for a touchdown.

Skyler Taylor kept his scoring streak intact, leaping over the pile for a 2-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Despite giving way to other running backs for much of the second half in each of the Highlanders three lopsided victories, Taylor impressively has 11 rushing touchdowns and at least one in each game this season.

The loss drops Colony to 3-2 this season. The Titans struggled without Tesimale and the extent of his injury is unknown. Head coach Steve Randall said he will know more on Monday or Tuesday.

Perhaps the most shocking stat line was the penalty disparity between the two teams. Colony finished the game without an official penalty enforced against them. They were called for holding in the third quarter, however it came on the heels of Gonzalez being sacked, so the penalty was declined by La Habra.

While it’s unclear how long he will be sidelined, fortunately Randall will have two weeks to either get his quarterback healthy or prepare for their first league game against Chaffey without him since the Titans have a bye week coming up.

La Habra improved its record to 3-2 heading into league play. Their two losses came against Upland, the top team in CIF Division 2, and Mission Viejo, the No. 2 team in Division 1.

The Highlanders open league against a much improved Sunny Hills (4-0) at Buena Park High School Oct. 6. The Lancers feature one of the top rushers in Orange County, Alex Jung.

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Highlanders start strong and crush Eagles in Saturday rout

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Highlanders start strong and crush Eagles in Saturday rout

Posted on 17 September 2017 by La Habra Journal

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

Photo by Paul Luna – La Habra’s Deavyn Woullard makes one if his receptions, en router to a Highlander touchdown Saturday.

La Habra’s 42 first-half points spoiled the Oak Grove Eagles’ trip south from San Jose abruptly Saturday afternoon at Mission Viejo High School.

Following a tough loss to Mission Viejo at home last week that capped a gauntlet three game stretch to open the season, the Highlanders(2-2) were able to even up their record behind Zach Fogel’s three first half touchdowns, with nine different Highlanders reaching the end zone.

“We’ve been playing some really good teams and I think we’ve been playing hard and doing what we are supposed to do,” La Habra Head Coach Frank Mazzotta said. “You know every once in awhile you’re do for an outing like this where things just kinda click and go your way.”

Skyler Taylor opened the scoring with a 7-yard touchdown run on the Highlanders opening drive. It was Taylor’s team leading ninth touchdown this season.

Fogel then spread the ball around on 5-8, 155 yards passing. He found Mitchell Anderson and Deavyn Woullard early for scores, then capped off his impressive half by hitting Kelani Washington with an over the shoulder 29-yard touchdown with :07 seconds left.

Photo by Paul Luna – La Habra’s Skyler Taylor pushes through Eagle defenders Saturday in La Habra’s victory.

In a game where everything seem to go the Highlanders way, Mazzotta said he was most impressed with the offensive line and Fogel’s improvement at quarterback.

“I think Zach threw the ball a little better, and that’s one thing that we’ve been trying to impress upon.”

“I’m always going to put a lot of pressure on myself to get better every week,” Fogel said. “I got better this week and we’ll try to do it again next week.”

Special teams got in on the scoring as well. Isaiah Alcocer returned a missed fg 99 yards for a touchdown on the Eagles opening drive.

With the score being lopsided so quickly, Taylor gave way to linebacker Kobah Fuamatu in the backfield midway through the second quarter. Fuamatu carried the ball twice for 40 yards and a touchdown.

Aaron Young added the final score in the fourth quarter to make it 49-0.

La Habra and Oak Grove(0-3) were both CIF Champions in 2015.

The Highlanders will take on Colony(3-1) in Ontario next Friday in their final non-league game. The Titans are coming off a 41-20 victory over Norte Vista.

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Late third quarter surge helps Diablos pull away from Highlanders

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Late third quarter surge helps Diablos pull away from Highlanders

Posted on 10 September 2017 by La Habra Journal

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

The La Habra high football team played it even with No. 2 Mission Viejo for about two and a half quarters Friday night, but the Diablos ended the third with three unanswered scores to break the game open and held on for the 42-27 win at La Habra.

Skyler Taylor drives against a Mission Viejo tackler Friday. Photo by Miguel Pola.

La Habra began the third quarter impressively on both sides of the ball to bring the score to 14-13.

The defense forced a quick punt on Mission Viejo’s opening drive, then quarterback Zack Fogel completed two consecutive passes to Mitchell Anderson for 50 yards, capped by a 20-yard touchdown.

Mission Viejo (3-0) answered with a 25-yard touchdown run by Akili Arnold.

The Diablos capitalized on a Fogel interception and partially blocked punt out of the end zone that set them up with a short field on their next two possessions.

Before the end of the quarter, the Highlanders found themselves looking up at a 35-13 deficit. Mission Viejo added one more early in the fourth.

“Their defense made a lot of really good adjustments to what we were doing,” Fogel said. “That [time-frame] right there late in the third wasn’t good for us and they took advantage of it.” 

“[Fogel] struggled to throw the ball tonight,” Mazzotta said. “He does a lot of good things though, made a lot of good reads and runs and stuff like that.”

Arnold was thrust into action midway through the first quarter after starting running back Jamari Ferrell suffered a serious leg injury. The junior responded with career highs in yards (151) and touchdowns (3).

The Highlanders didn’t go quietly. Fogel connected with on two fourth quarter touchdown passes to Deavyn Woullard.  

The Highlanders refusal to go away coupled with the second unit’s inability to move the ball, prompted Mission Viejo coach Bob Johnson to insert his first unit back into action with about two minutes to play after sitting for half of the quarter.

The move proved to be a costly decision. On the first play back in the game, starting left guard Chuck Redman suffered an apparent knee injury and had to be carted off the field.

Skyler Taylor carried the ball 17 times for 96 yards for the Highlanders, and with his first quarter touchdown has now scored in each of the Highlanders first three games.

Fogel finished with 142 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Woullard had 59 yards receiving with two touchdowns.

Mission Viejo quarterback Joey Yellen threw for 206 yards and two scores.

Penalties were an issue for the Highlanders all night. They were hit with 12 flags, five of them for pass interference.

“They don’t need help,” Mazzotta said. “I mean bless, good teams don’t need to keep drives alive with that many penalties.”

Mission Viejo has another tough game ahead of them next week when they play Long Beach Poly. Both teams are ranked in the top-10 in the State.

The No. 9 Highlanders (1-2) will try to bounce back next Friday against Oak Grove (0-2) of San Jose at The Pit.

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Taylor’s record night, lifts Highlanders over Titans

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Taylor’s record night, lifts Highlanders over Titans

Posted on 02 September 2017 by La Habra Journal

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

Skyler Taylor’s school record seven touchdowns spurred La Habra to upend Tesoro with a decisive 45-14 victory in Friday night’s home opener.

La Habra’s Skyler Taylor runs for one of his record setting touchdowns against Tesoro Friday night. Photo by Miguel Pola

It was an impressive showing following their lopsided loss to Upland last week.


“It’s ironic,” head coach Frank Mazzotta said of his message to the team this week. “You’re never as bad as you think you are, and you’re never as good as you think you are either.”

“I was proud of the kids, they did a pretty good job,” Mazzotta added. “Instead of getting down [and dwelling on last week], they came out and played.”

Taylor got the Highlanders on the board early and they never slowed down.

Playing in his first home game since joining the team, Taylor scored on each of the first two Highlander possessions, from six and 40 yards.

La Habr’s defense held the Titans to only 14 points Friday as LHHS won 45-14. Photo by Miguel Pola

Tesoro showed signs of life late in the first, when quarterback Chase Petersen hit John Cody for a 72-yard touchdown.

The Highlander defense set the tone early as well, forcing three turnovers in the first quarter (two interceptions and a fumble).

After a Clark Phillips interception staved off the Titans drive deep into Highlander territory, Taylor burst through the line and ran 91 yards untouched to make it 19-7 with 1:15 left in the first quarter.

The Highlanders offensive line paved the way for Taylor to go into halftime with six scores and a 39-7 lead.

“We are counting on them to be something special this year,” Mazzotta said about his offensive line. “Now they have to live up to it.”

Taylor would only play one more series in the third quarter, adding a 67-yarder to his total and finished with 300 yards.

La Habra Quarterback Zach Fogel makes a pass past Tesoro defenders in the Highlander 45-14 victory. Photo by Miguel Pola.

“It feels great playing behind them, I love my team man,” Taylor said. “It was all offensive line tonight, couldn’t do it without them.  

For the Titans, Petersen and Cody would hookup one more time midway through the fourth for another long touchdown. The duo accounted for the Titans only two scores on the night.

Quarterback Zach Fogel connected on a pair of long pass plays down inside the 5-yard-line, one to Deavyn Woullard and one to Kelani Washington that set up two more Taylor scores.

“I saw a little improvement, but tonight was all about our o-line and Skyler, with seven touchdowns, that’s unreal,” Fogel said.

Tesoro (0-2) dropped a heartbreaker last week to No. 1 Edison 47-48, but came into the night still ranked ahead of La Habra in Division 2.

Next week will be another serious test for the Highlanders (1-1), when they host the No. 10 team in California, Mission Viejo (2-0) Friday night. The Diablos are averaging 40 points-per-game so far and just beat a tough Vista Murrietta team 41-7.

Fogel said the key is just getting back to work, you don’t get too low after a loss or too high after a win.

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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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