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Coyotes bring Highlanders streak to halt with big second half

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Coyotes bring Highlanders streak to halt with big second half

Posted on 22 October 2016 by La Habra Journal

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

The Buena Park High School football team had been steadily climbing the ranks the past six seasons under Head Coach Anthony White, but one task had still bedeviled the Coyotes—unseating La Habra as the team to beat in the Freeway League, until Friday night.

By Miguel Pola/La Habra Journal La Habra's Senior Eli Anderson scores from 2 yards out with 3 min left in the first half. La Habra HS leads 13-0 at the half.

By Miguel Pola/La Habra Journal
La Habra’s Senior Eli Anderson scores from 2 yards out with 3 min left in the first half. La Habra HS leads 13-0 at the half.

Heading to the locker room down 13-0 at the half, it appeared the Coyotes were once again going to be disappointed. However, Buena Park exploded for four unanswered scores in the second half to end the Highlanders league winning streak at 47 with a 27-13 victory at home.

“I got them fired up [at halftime] and told them to believe in the program, believe in the system and do your job,” White said. “I think everyone was trying to do too much wanting to make us win, so I told them to be accountable and just do your 1-of-11.”

The tides began to turn early in the third quarter.

Much like the first half, La Habra stuffed the Coyotes opening drive.

On the ensuing punt, returner Madison Wheeler got caught in between a couple Coyotes and the ball grazed his leg, allowing the coverage team to pounce on it.

“We made a mistake that was costly, we were beating them around and we stopped them at the half, it was our best player, what are you going to do, sometimes your best player does something that is uncharacteristic,” said Highlander Head Coach Frank Mazzotta. “I don’t know that there is any such thing as momentum though, good teams make more plays than the ones that lose and they made more plays than we did.”

After Wheeler broke up three consecutive passes near the goal line, Buena Park quarterback James Rafkin finally connected with A.J. Allen on a crucial fourth-and-long play to put the ball inside the 5 yard line. A couple plays later sophomore running back Jamiel Henning punched it in from a yard out to cut the lead in half.

The Coyotes took their first lead on the next possession when Allen made a picture perfect over the shoulder grab in the back of the end zone just before the end of the quarter.

By Miguel Pola/ La Habra Journal La Habra's senior Derrick Corso's interception sets up La Habra's 2nd and of the first half. — at Buena Park High School Football.

By Miguel Pola/ La Habra Journal La Habra’s senior Derrick Corso’s interception sets up La Habra’s 2nd and of the first half. — at Buena Park High School Football.

The dagger came early in the fourth quarter on a 30-yard catch-and-run by Henning, who caught the ball in the flat near the Highlander sideline, made a couple La Habra defenders miss, then accelerated and completely ran over the safety en route to his second score of the night.

Neither team moved the ball particularly well throughout most of the game.

La Habra got on the board in the second quarter on perhaps the catch of the night. Quarterback Zach Fogel lofted the ball to his favorite target, Prince Ross, who laid out to make the diving grab across the goal line for a 35-yard touchdown. Fogel’s only other completion to that point was a 36-yard pass to Eli Anderson, which set up the score

Anderson carried it in from the 1-yard-line to give the Highlanders a two score lead heading into the break. The touchdown was set up by cornerback Derrick Corso’s 42-yard interception return, that gave the Highlander offense the ball inside the 5.

Anderson showed off his hands late in the fourth, catching a pair of passes out of the backfield to set up a red zone opportunity for the Highlanders with about two minutes to play. However, Devon Cooley picked Fogel off in the end zone to dash any hopes of a late Highlander comeback.

The Coyote defense was stifling all night long. Their leading tackler, safety Niguy Simms was once again all over the field and came up with an interception in the fourth quarter that set up Buena Park’s final score.

“Defense is our motto, it’s what we live by,” White said. “I’m a defensive coach, the defensive coordinator and we have a great defensive staff, everyone takes accountability for their own positions, their own guys and everyone did their jobs tonight.”

Cedric Dashiell III entered the evening as one of the leading pass-rushers in Orange County with 11.5 sacks. Dashiell brought down Fogel five times on the night to add to his total.

Dashiell gave credit to his coaches and fellow defensive lineman for calling and executing stunts late in the game to free him up to closeout with three sacks on the Highlanders final drive.

The Highlanders (4-4, 2-1) will try to bounce back against Fullerton at home next Friday. The Coyotes (7-1, 3-0) will look to remain perfect in league when they take on Sunny Hills Friday at Spalding Stadium, although it will technically be an away game for them.

“We go back to work tomorrow, that’s 100 percent, we have to finish what we started,” White said.

Mazzotta added, “Nothing goes on forever, streaks were meant to be broken.”

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Raiders bounce Indians

Posted on 09 February 2015 by La Habra Journal

By Erik Markus
La Habra Journal

The Sonora Raiders battled with the Fullerton Indians before finally breaking through in the second half to secure a victory, winning 73-58.LHJ LHHS vs SHHS Girls Basketball 2015

The two teams were neck and neck after two quarters, with the Raiders leading 32-31.

The referees called an unusually tight game which forced both teams to spend more time shooting free throws than anything else.

“Those guys were calling a foul every possession, I thought it was the tightest of any game we’ve played in a couple of years, every touch was a foul, on both teams,” head coach Mike Murphy said.

Of the Raiders 32 first half points, half of them came from free throws, making 16-21. Fullerton meanwhile took 18 free throw shots and made 14 of them.

The Raiders struggled to shoot the ball, which made the free throws an ally for them to weather through their shooting slump.

“We haven’t been shooting the ball, I mean we can’t make shots, we finally started making shots in the second half and we were able to pull away,” Murphy said.

While the free throws kept the two teams close in terms of the scoreboard, there was a significant difference in bench depth. The Raiders carry 14 players compared to Fullerton’s 10.LHJ LHHS vs SHHS Girls Basketball 2015

The Raiders depth helped them survive foul trouble, while the Indians bench struggled as the game went longer.

Ben Rico had the hottest hand scoring 14 of his 24 points in the second half.

“He played his best defense that he’s played in a while, and he was really going after the ball, Murphy said, “I think that just got him fired up and the defense and the rebounding carried over into his offense and he had a nice game,” Murphy said.

Before the game, Rico was concerned with how his ankle would respond, but the it never appeared to be a factor.

“Once I got in the game, I think the adrenaline kicked in, I was feeling okay and totally forgot about it,” Rico said.

The third quarter was the best for the Raiders who outscored the Indians 26-12 to create an insurmountable gap.

“Some we come out as a team defending a little harder than others, but today I really made it my priority to play defense and guard my guy,” Rico said.

Josh Rodriguez finished the night with 20 points and 12-14 from the free throw line.LHJ LHHS vs SHHS Girls Basketball 2015

The Indians had a balanced scoring effort led by David Sandoval’s 11 points and 10 points from Gerritt Beetstra and Jacob Wirtzer.

Similar to the first game between Fullerton and Sonora, the game became very physical by the end.

Ashaad Womack left the first meeting with a dislocated knee, but played in his second game since returning from the injury.

“I told our guys, they do some things that shouldn’t be done, when you’re going to the basket and they’re pushing guys in the back, I just told our guys to keep their poise and just play through all of that,” Murphy said.

The Raiders will travel to Buena Park for their next game before finishing on Thursday against La Habra at home.

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Highlanders roll past Indians

Posted on 17 October 2014 by La Habra Journal

By Sarah Fenton
La Habra Journal

 

La Habra continued its Freeway League winning streak by beating Fullerton, 42-7, at home Friday night.

 

The Highlanders (4-3,2-0) came off a big win in their season opener against Buena Park with a goal of improving against Fullerton (3-4, 0-2).

 

“We wanted to keep pushing to get better,” said La Habra head coach Frank Mazzotta. “That’s all we try to do every week, get a little better and improve the things we had some trouble with and eventually you end up being a really good team.”

La Habra's Carlos Martin breaks to the outside.  Martin rushed for 156 yards and three touchdowns Friday.

La Habra’s Carlos Martin breaks to the outside. Martin rushed for 156 yards and three touchdowns Friday.

 

The spotlight was on the Highlanders’ offense, which scored five touchdowns in the first half.

 

La Habra’s offensive leaders again were Eric Barriere, who threw two touchdown passes, and Carlos Martin, who scored three touchdowns and rushed for 156 yards.

 

“We just wanted to go out there and do the same thing we did last week,” Barriere said. “We didn’t want to slow down, we wanted to keep on going. It was a really good win tonight. Everyone put in a good team effort to get the win.”

 

La Habra’s defense had a solid game a made some big plays to hold the Indians to only one touchdown.

 

The Highlanders’ defense held the Indians and forced them to punt on their first possession of the game.

 

La Habra started it off by making its way down the field and scored off a pass from Barriere to give the Highlanders the lead over Fullerton, 7-0.

La Habra Quarterback Eric Barriere looks for an open receiver.  He passed for two touchdowns Friday.

La Habra Quarterback Eric Barriere looks for an open receiver. He passed for two touchdowns Friday.

 

Minutes into the second quarter, Barriere faked a handoff and ran 12 yards into the end zone to put the Highlanders up 14-0.

 

Fullerton scored its first points of the game off a touchdown pass with a little over seven minutes remaining in the first half.

 

La Habra responded with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Barriere to Martin to advance their score to 28-7.

 

With less than 30 seconds remaining in the first half, Barriere connected his second touchdown pass of the night to Amon Fellows, advancing their lead to 35-7 going into halftime.

Rylie school Carnival 2014. Eastside Christian

“There’s always little minor adjustments that we try to make at halftime but no matter what the score is, the whole point is to try to get better,” Mazzotta said about his halftime speech.

 

Late in the third quarter Martin scored the final touchdown of the game off a 53-yard run into the end zone.

 

“They absolutely played the way I wanted them to,” Mazzotta said. “We’ve been playing the way I want them to play a lot. The mistakes are really starting to be cut down and that’s the important thing.”

 

La Habra will be at home again next week for their homecoming game against Sunny Hills on Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

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Lady Raiders come close, but fall to Fullerton with league lead on the line

Posted on 07 May 2014 by La Habra Journal

Sonora's Chelsea Purcell gave the Lady Raiders an early 2-0 lead with an RBI-triple in the third inning, but Sonora fell to Fullerton 5-4 in nine innings, Tuesday afternoon on the road.

Sonora’s Chelsea Purcell gave the Lady Raiders an early 2-0 lead with an RBI-triple in the third inning, but Sonora fell to Fullerton 5-4 in nine innings, Tuesday afternoon on the road.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

With an opportunity to take sole possession of first place in the Freeway League, the Sonora softball team stumbled late and fell to Fullerton 5-4 in nine innings, Tuesday afternoon at Fullerton High.

The win puts the Lady Indians in sole possession of first place and creates a jumbled mess in the form of a four-way tie for second place with all teams at 4-3.

The Lady Raiders twice took a two-run lead, the second time jumping ahead 4-2 after the top half of the fifth inning.

However, the Lady Indians remained resilient, pulling within one run with back-to-back doubles by Alex Castillo and Brisa Pennington.

In the late innings, Fullerton’s Amanda Flores was clutch, providing both the game-tying RBI in the seventh inning and the game-winning RBI in the ninth inning.

One out away from sealing a 4-3 victory in the seventh inning, the Lady Indians struck for three consecutive base hits, the third by Flores scoring Castillo from second base.

Two innings later, Flores was up again with Castillo on third base. The junior, who also took over in the pitching circle during the fifth inning, singled to right field to bring home Castillo for the walk off win.

Leandra Jew provided a lift at the leadoff spot for the Lady Raiders as she reached base in four of her five plate appearances and scored three runs.

Katie Amaral finished 2-for-3 with two RBI, driving in two runs with a sacrifice fly in the first inning and a single in the fifth inning. Jew came around to score in the third inning on a triple by Chelsea Purcell, which gave the Lady Raiders a 2-0 lead.

Pennington was hit by a pitch to start the Fullerton half of the fourth inning and Flores singled before Missy Poti brought them both home with a double to tie up the ball game.

Sonora responded with three consecutive singles to start the fifth inning. Jew came home on a throwing error by Fullerton catcher Ally Houser and Amaral singled home Zoe Juarez to give Sonora a 4-2 lead.

The Lady Raiders will try to get back on track with a league game against Buena Park at home, Thursday afternoon.

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Late rally not enough as Lady Highlanders fall to Fullerton

Posted on 01 May 2014 by La Habra Journal

Janelle Rodriguez came in during the fourth inning and retired 10 of the 11 Fullerton batters she faced, but the Lady Highlanders fell to the Lady Indians 4-3, Thursday afternoon at home.

Janelle Rodriguez came in during the fourth inning and retired 11 of the 12 Fullerton batters she faced, but the Lady Highlanders fell to the Lady Indians 4-3, Thursday afternoon at home.

by Jeremiah Girard
La Habra Journal

A late rally for the La Habra softball team was not enough as they dropped into a tie for first place, with a 4-3 loss to Fullerton, Thursday afternoon at La Habra High.

The Lady Highlanders headed into the fifth inning down 4-0 and hadn’t had much working offensively. After finally piecing a couple of hits together, La Habra was threatening for the first time. Sophomore Jayanna Perez drove in a run with a single to left field to put La Habra on the board.

“We finally broke through in the fifth,” said La Habra head coach Frank McCarroll. “The girls started to get some big hits late, but the key word there is late.”

The biggest threat came in the sixth inning. After a lead-off single, Amanda Akles came up and drove a two-run home run to deep left field. The home run cut the deficit to 4-3. Akles also committed the last out of the game on a ground out to second base.

“Amanda gave us a big swing there,” McCarroll said. “It would have been great if she did it again in the seventh, but overall we failed to execute late.”

The big difference for La Habra was the pitching performances. Taylor Pierce started the game and was pulled after giving up four runs in three-and-one-thirds innings. The senior was replaced by freshman Janelle Rodriguez.

Rodriguez started things off by giving up an infield single. The next batter grounded into an inning-ending double play. Rodriguez then went on to retire the last nine Fullerton hitters she faced and gave her team a chance to stay in the game.

“I thought Janelle pitched great for us today,” McCarroll said. “She has been doing that all year and it was good to see her come in and shut them down when we needed her to.”

Now at 4-2, the Lady Highlanders (15-9, 4-2) are now tied with Sonora and Fullerton (13-11, 4-2) for first place with four games remaining and will continue Freeway League play, Tuesday, at Sunny Hills.

“Since we are tied for now, we are looking at it as a four-game season,” McCarroll said. “When your season is only four games it is important to pick up wins in as many of those games as possible.”

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Big third inning leads to lopsided win for Raiders over Fullerton

Posted on 28 April 2014 by La Habra Journal

Gavin Blodgett helped to get things going for the Raiders in the third inning by hitting a double to put runners on second and third base. The Raiders defeated Fullerton 11-0 at home, Friday.

Gavin Blodgett helped to get things going for the Raiders in the third inning by hitting a double to put runners on second and third base. The Raiders defeated Fullerton 11-0 at home, Friday.

by Jeremiah Girard
La Habra Journal

The Sonora baseball team is now 9-0 in Freeway League play, after an 11-0 win over Fullerton High School, Friday, at home.

The game was scoreless through the first two innings, but the Raiders’ bats erupted for six runs in the third inning. Evan Sonny started off the inning with a single. Gavin Blodgett doubled and Andrew Piraino walked to load the bases with no outs.

Jake Rosander, Jose Lopez, Justin Mellano and Gabe Armstrong followed that up with four consecutive RBI singles.

After a Henry Bustamante strikeout, Mauricio Guadaramma laid down an RBI-squeeze bunt with the bases loaded. Sonny capped off the third-inning scoring with an RBI single, his second hit of the inning.

“You’ve got to be happy with the way we swung the bats today,” said Pat Tellers, Sonora head coach. “If we keep hitting like we have the past couple games, with our pitching and defense, we will be pretty tough to beat.”

Fullerton’s (9-9-1, 3-6) starting pitcher, Randall Ortiz, only lasted three-plus innings. He gave up eight runs on nine hits, with two walks and two strikeouts.

Armstrong was also the Raiders’ pitcher for the day and continued his recent dominance. He went five shutout innings while only giving up three hits, walking one and striking out three.

“I felt good today,” Armstrong said. “I got ahead of a lot of guys and made some pitches when I needed to.”

It seemed as if he could have gone longer than five innings, but he was pulled to allow JonPaul Sarro and Corey Latvala a chance to pitch.

“His pitches looked like they were getting a little flat,” Tellers said. “At this point in the season, it doesn’t hurt to rest some guys and get other guys on the mound either.”

Jose Lopez was the offensive star for the Raiders. He went 3-for-4 with four RBI and a run scored.

“I have been really happy with my at-bats of late,” Lopez said. “I have tightened up my approach and have been putting better swings on the ball.”

Sonora will now take on Buena Park, Wednesday, at home. The Coyotes sit at the bottom of the Freeway League standings at 2-7.

Evan Sonny is scheduled to take the mound on Wednesday and will likely only pitch five innings.

“We’re going to start taking the starters out after five innings,” Tellers said. “That will give guys a bit of a chance to get some rest and get ready for the playoffs. It also gives us a chance to get some guys ready to come out of the pen for us.”

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Late scratch hurts Highlanders in an attempt to sweep Fullerton

Posted on 17 April 2014 by La Habra Journal

Freshman Carlos Lomeli (pictured against Los Altos) was asked to move from third base to spot start for the Highlanders against Fullerton on Thursday afternoon. Lomeli pitched two innings in a 6-1 loss against the Indians on the road.

Freshman Carlos Lomeli (pictured against Los Altos) was asked to move from third base to spot start for the Highlanders against Fullerton on Thursday afternoon. Lomeli pitched two innings in a 6-1 loss against the Indians on the road.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

Opting not to start pitcher Andrew Gallegos due to arm tightness, the La Habra baseball team had to try to come up with a quick solution on the mound in its final matchup against Fullerton, Thursday afternoon.

While Gallegos still played center field, the pitching staff struggled to throw strikes in the third and fourth innings, issuing seven walks and allowing four runs as the Indians defeated the Highlanders 6-1 and avoided a sweep by La Habra.

“We needed to get this win, we saw the chance to battle for second place and La Habra is sitting right there,” said Tony Gonzalez, Fullerton head coach. “Right now it’s in our own destiny, whether or not we’re going to take second place. Right now first place is out of the question, but we’re still trying to get the kids to come out and compete every day.”

While La Habra’s pitchers struggled, Fullerton starter Randall Ortiz cruised through six innings and bounced back after giving up an unearned run in the first inning.

The senior right hander kept the Highlanders off-balance, allowing one run on four hits while striking out four batters and walking one.

“He was pretty good, he mixed his pitches really well,” said Gallegos, who scored the Highlanders lone run. “I think it’s really tough when he tries to go outside, then bangs it inside and comes back with off-speed, he has a really good combination of pitches.”

After Fullerton scored twice in the second inning, relief pitchers Tyler Holub and Ricky Garcia had problems keeping the ball down in the third and fourth innings.

Fullerton (9-7-1, 3-4) capitalized with three runs in the third, one driven in on a double by Ozzie Vazquez and two more from a single by Rocky Markanian.

“With Gallegos experiencing a little tightness in his arm, we decided to back him off and adjust as best we could,” said John Sothern, La Habra head coach. “With Nuanes being our No. 3 starter, we wanted to save him for the doubleheader on Saturday. They just didn’t throw strikes today, we were non-competitive in that aspect.”

The problems on the mound took away from what was a brilliant defensive effort for La Habra (9-8, 4-3). Though Gallegos didn’t start, he did play center field and collected two outfield assists.

In the second inning, Gallegos collected a line drive single and threw out a runner at home plate. In the fourth inning, he caught a runner making a wide turn around second base and threw to second baseman Kyle Schuh, who applied the tag.

Catcher Austin Saad picked off a runner at third base and Brad Hoffrichter made a diving catch in left field.

“I wasn’t expecting to get the runner at home, I just wanted to get the ball in as quickly as I could,” Gallegos said about his second-inning play. “Defensively, we had a good game, we made the smart plays, the plays we needed to make…. I feel like we’re pretty solid on defense, I think this was the best defensive game we’ve played all year.”

For the Indians, adjustments at the plate were key, as La Habra’s freshman starting pitcher Carlos Lomeli had a relatively easy first inning before struggling in the second inning.

With runners on second and third base, Fullerton’s Rowdy Granger plated a run on a squeeze bunt that turned into a single.

Two batters later, Tyler Place drove home a second run with a sacrifice fly to center field.

“In the beginning, I was a little upset with our approach because they were throwing first pitch fastballs outside and we were just taking them for strikes,” Gonzalez said. “I had to jump on my guys, that’s been the story of our season, but later in the game, when we got a hit here or there, I think the guys started to get a bit more confident.”

Fullerton added a run in the fourth inning with an RBI single by Turner Buis and threatened for more by earning five walks, but Gallegos’ outfield assist to second base and Saad’s pickoff at third base saved the Highlanders from allowing the inning to get out of control.

“Defensively, we were outstanding and that’s the only reason the score was even this close,” Sothern said. “Defensively, I was very impressed because with us being a young team, it’s been up-and-down thing for us. Today was very good, I was very pleased with that.”

La Habra’s first inning run was scored by Gallegos on an error by Fullerton’s shortstop Place, who bobbled a ground ball that could have turned into an inning-ending double play.

Ortiz earned the victory for Fullerton, while Lomeli was charged with the loss.

Nuanes pitched the final two innings for La Habra, retiring all six batters he faced.

La Habra will play a nonleague doubleheader on Saturday against Culver City at home. The first game will start at 11 a.m.

“There is some disappointment that we didn’t sweep because I would have liked to have finished them off,” Sothern said. “From our guys, I see the same thing, but it is nice to get a series victory. Playing on Saturday is an opportunity to get guys some at-bats and more opportunities to get other guys some work. I wouldn’t consider it a tune-up, but hopefully if we play well it will get us back on track.”

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Lady Highlanders jump early, rout Fullerton in league opener

Posted on 15 April 2014 by La Habra Journal

La Habra's Taylor Pierce (shown against Whittier Christian) threw a complete game shutout and struck out four in La Habra's 11-0 league-opening win against Fullerton, Tuesday on the road.

La Habra’s Taylor Pierce (shown against Whittier Christian) threw a complete game shutout and struck out four in La Habra’s 11-0 league-opening win against Fullerton, Tuesday on the road.

Story and photos by Erik Markus
La Habra Journal

The La Habra softball team jumped out to an early 4-0 lead and cruised behind Taylor Pierce to take home an easy 11-0 victory over Fullerton in the Freeway League opener for both teams, Tuesday afternoon at Fullerton High.

The Lady Highlanders came in as the four-time defending league champions.

“Any time we play, the team we are playing is going to give us their A game,” head coach Frank McCarroll said.

The Lady Highlanders took advantage of Fullerton freshman pitcher Cecilia Lopez, knocking her out of the circle before she left the first inning. The Lady Highlanders batted around in the first inning giving them a four run cushion before they took the field.

In the circle, Taylor Pierce held her own dominating the Lady Indians (9-10,0-1) and preserving the lead.

As a senior Pierce has some new responsibilities to her team, “(I am) a leader out here on the field and in the circle and on defense,” she said.

McCarroll echoed her comments and said, “It’s her time to be the pitcher, she’s a senior so she’s going to lead the staff.”

In the fourth inning, the Lady Highlanders broke through again against Amanda Flores who entered the game to relieve Lopez in the first inning. La Habra loaded the bases and scored two runs on a walk and a single. The bases were still loaded with the 6-0 lead

Fullerton’s Kloee Scott came in to pull her team out of the jam, but gave up two runs on a hit by pitch and a wild pitch. The Lady Indians eventually escaped on a strikeout and a line out but found themselves in an 8-0 deficit.

Pierce padded her lead when she scorched a single into left in the fifth inning. Two more runs were added in the sixth inning to give the Lady Highlanders their 11-0 victory.

Amanda Akles went 2-for-2 with three runs scored and one run batted in. Nikki Butler went 3-for-4 with a run scored and one RBI.

La Habra (12-7, 1-0) will have a big test on Thursday when they face Sunny Hills who they shared the league title last year.

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Local high school athletes excel in unlikely sport

Posted on 25 March 2014 by La Habra Journal

By Nathan Percy La Habra Journal Over the past weekend, high school athletes met at Ladera Vista Junior High School in Fullerton to take part in a sport that isn’t offered on high school campuses, but one that is gaining popularity in rapid fashion.

Sonora Tanner Quinto breaks away for the Fullerton Lions Rugby Club at the annual Fullerton tournament last Saturday.

Sonora Tanner Quinto breaks away for the Fullerton Lions Rugby Club at the annual Fullerton tournament last Saturday.

The sport is rugby and students from all three La Habra area high schools have been making the short trip to participate as part of the Fullerton Lions Rugby Club, which hosts the Fullerton Rugby High School International Invitational each spring.

The tournament, which celebrated its tenth anniversary this past weekend, consists mostly of California teams, but also attracted out-of-state teams as well as one from Canada. “It’s the fastest growing sport in America right now, mostly because it’s going to be in the 2016 Olympics,” said Phillip Marquez, head coach of the Lions U18 team.

“Not everyone knows about the sport, people are starting to jump on it right now. As far as Fullerton, we’re one of the oldest youth groups throughout the nation, this is our twelfth year and we’re already putting boys on the US team and in college.”

The Fullerton Lions Club formed 12 years ago and offers both boys and girls teams, with four different age groups for boys and currently two for girls. In earlier years, the Lions have hosted local high school football standouts, such as former La Habra running back Josh Quezada and former Whittier Christian running back Johnathan Marquez, among others.

This year, eight high school athletes from both La Habra and Sonora High Schools are participating in the Fullerton Lions rugby teams, and word continues to spread about the sport on both campuses. La Habra seniors Tyler Dean and Andy Mata, along with juniors Richard Parker, James Pirtle, Lucas Thomas and Sonora junior Antonio Apodaca are all members of the Lions’ U18 team.

La Habra's Lucas Thomas, Tyler Dean, Richard Parker, James Pirtle, Andy Mata and Sonora's Andy Apodaca Jr. pose before their next match at the Lions Tournament Saturday afternoon in Fullerton.

La Habra’s Lucas Thomas, Tyler Dean, Richard Parker, James Pirtle, Andy Mata and Sonora’s Andy Apodaca Jr. pose before their next match at the Lions Tournament Saturday afternoon in Fullerton.

For most of the boys, rugby started as an alternative to football, but all have ended up preferring the sport because of its style of play.

“I loved football, but rugby’s just a different sport, it’s so much more fun,” Dean said. “Football is a team sport, but they have a star quarterback or star receiver. With rugby, you need an entire core, everyone gets the ball, even the big guys. I love the selflessness.”

But the second aspect that separates rugby from most other sports, according to all the athletes, is the heightened sense of camaraderie shared between teammates and opposing players alike.

“Teams will even host meals for their opponents after matches, the tradition of it is great,” Dean said.

While some are starting to learn about the sport as they have been playing their first couple of seasons, others were introduced during their playing days in La Habra Pop Warner football.

“One of my Pop Warner coaches, Joseph Quezada, he played for Fullerton and told me to check out a game,” said Parker, who has played in the tournament for two years now. “I came down to check out a game and I fell in love with it. I love the physicality and the aggressiveness. It’s just nonstop action.”

Such bonds become essential during the course of a grueling four-month season in which games are played nearly every Saturday. This year’s schedule included two tournaments. The team took second place in the Cup Championship match at this year’s Fullerton Tournament. In addition, the boys try to spread word of the sport on campus by word-of-mouth or using social media.

“I’ll post pictures on Instagram or Facebook every now and then,” said Apodaca, who found out about rugby from his older brother. “They’re just ways to advertise the team, I’m always talking to guys and telling them they should check it out.”

However, this sport isn’t restricted to just boys, a pair of Sonora girls have found their athletic calling in rugby as well, participating for the Lady Lions’ U18 team.

Sonora Senior Johanna Pasutin and junior Tanner Quinto smile after a Fullerton Lions Rugby Club victory at the Fullerton tournament Saturday at Ladera Vista Junior High School in Fullerton.

Sonora Senior Johanna Pasutin and junior Tanner Quinto smile after a Fullerton Lions Rugby Club victory at the Fullerton tournament Saturday at Ladera Vista Junior High School in Fullerton.

Sonora senior Johanna Pasutin, in her fourth year and captain of the Lions, and junior Tanner Quinto, joining for her first season, are currently playing to defend a national championship that the Lady Lions won last year.

For both Pasutin and Quinto, the love of the sport comes from similar aspects. “One of my soccer teammates told me about rugby and I fell in love with it,” said Pasutin, who celebrated her 18th birthday on the first day of the tournament.

“Usually I’m really aggressive and I was always looking for something since my dad didn’t want me playing football. I love the camaraderie, after games we go out and eat with teammates and interact with other teams, I love that aspect of it.”

The girls’ team took first in this year’s tournament’s bowl match. While rugby has gained its footing at the youth level, the opportunities to play at the next level are growing.

Collegiate teams have been formed locally at both Cal State Fullerton and Fullerton College. In addition, more colleges and universities are offering scholarships in the form of rugby packages as opportunities for kids to continue their education and play the sport they love.

“I would like to continue and play in college, but right now it’s just step-by-step, I just want to keep improving,” Mata said.

“It opens so many doors for colleges, some of these kids get an ultimatum to either play football or rugby and some of them are starting to drop football,” Marquez added. “We have kids in local colleges and Division 1 colleges playing rugby.”

In addition, at the end of the regular season, players have a chance to further their skills on an All-Star team, the Orange County Griffins.

The opportunity to keep playing is a goal for Pasutin, who has played for the Griffins for the last three years. Quinto is hoping to make the team in her first season with the Lions.

“A lot of colleges are opening their minds to women’s rugby as well, right now most just offer men’s rugby,” Pasutin said. “But we still have a chance to play for the all-star team, the Griffins, this will be my fourth year and Tanner should make the team too. It’s definitely a goal to make that team.”

The Lions continue their season though April, with playoffs starting in May. While Marquez has been in talks to start a high school team, he continues to work and develop his current club.

The Fullerton Lions are well established in the youth rugby world and are always looking to expand the sport of rugby in Southern California.

“It’s a game where you just need your mouthpiece and your cleats, which are called your boots, you just carry those around and if you have enough people, you can start a game,” Marquez said. “These kids are making friends with our competitors on the field. That’s the difference with this sport.”

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Tellers earns win No. 400 as Raiders beat Fullerton at home

Posted on 22 March 2014 by La Habra Journal

Sonora baseball coach Pat Tellers is presented a banner after earning his 400th win during his 24th year as head coach of the Sonora baseball program. The Raiders defeated Fullerton 3-2 at home to earn Tellers the milestone.

Sonora baseball coach Pat Tellers is presented a banner after earning his 400th win during his 24th year as head coach of the Sonora baseball program. The Raiders defeated Fullerton 3-2 at home to earn Tellers the milestone. Photos courtesy of Victor Choe

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

The Sonora Raiders scored three early runs and survived a late rally by Fullerton to claim its second consecutive 3-2 victory and earn Head Coach Pat Tellers his 400th win as Raiders head coach.

The 24th year head coach joins boys’ basketball head coach Mike Murphy in terms of reaching milestones this year. Murphy, who has also coached at Sonora for 24 years, earned his 500th career coaching win in January.

Sonora scored single runs in the first three innings of the game and starting pitcher Evan Sonny outdueled Fullerton starting pitcher Randall Ortiz through six innings. JP Sarro earned his second consecutive save after pitching a scoreless seventh inning.

The Raiders’ Henry Bustamante drove home a run with a double, while Jose Gomez and Mauricio Guadaramma also pitched in with doubles in the early going.

Sonny kept the Indians’ offense in check until Fullerton put up two runs in the fifth inning. Sonny pitched six innings and gave up two runs on five hits with eight strikeouts and three walks.

Ortiz pitched all six innings for Fullerton, allowing three earned runs on five hits while striking out two batters and walking two

The memorial banner hangs on the first base side of the backstop at Anderson Field, where Sonora varsity baseball plays its home games.

The memorial banner hangs on the first base side of the backstop at Anderson Field, where Sonora varsity baseball plays its home games.

batters.

The Raiders worked around three errors to earn Tellers the milestone win and, more importantly, a 2-0 start in the Freeway League along with La Habra, which beat Sunny Hills on the road, 11-2.

Sonora starts the Anaheim Lions Tournament on Saturday with an 11 a.m. contest against Kelso High out of Washington at home.

 

The Sonora baseball team poses with Head Coach Pat Tellers (left) and pitching coach Rich Lodding (right) in celebration of Tellers' 400th win at Sonora, Friday afternoon.

The Sonora baseball team poses with Head Coach Pat Tellers (left) and pitching coach Rich Lodding (right) in celebration of Tellers’ 400th win at Sonora, Friday afternoon.

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