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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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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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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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Highlander golfers ready to tee off this season

Posted on 11 March 2015 by La Habra Journal

By Aaron Valdez
La Habra Journal

The La Habra High School boy’s golf team is excited to embark on another promising spring season.
Last season, the Highlanders were engaged in a tight race between Sunny Hills and Troy High School for league title. After the smoke cleared, La Habra finished in a much respectable 3rd place and 10th overall in their CIF Division.golf-ball
The biggest highlight of that season belonged to the team’s own, Mike Lascari for becoming the Individual League champion. It marked the first time in school history a Highlander broke a Sunny Hills’ 14 year win streak.
Coach Verdugo was and always will be proud of his team as he still looks to win that elusive league title. Now that the season is nearly underway, Verdugo firmly believes the boys can not only improve from last year’s results, but also play with pride and class whether it’s a win, lose, or draw.
The team has been working hard all school year long to prepare themselves for the road ahead. From late Aug. to Dec., Verdugo already had the team practicing two to three times a week in order to establish chemistry and polish their fundamentals. They have now begun to practice a full five days a week since the month of Jan.
Coming into this season, La Habra’s biggest strength is their depth according to Coach Verdugo. He currently has three seniors that are all playing at a high level. In addition, he also has three underclassmen, Mike Lascari, Ben Livesay, and Joe Egan whose skillsets can help the team snag some much needed victories.
Despite having such profound players on the team, Verdugo still wants to ensure each player provides a consistent effort in each match. When it comes to playing with the most confidence, the team seems to perform best on Westridge golf course since it is their go-to practice spot. Hacienda Golf club can also play in La Habra’s favor as both courses have been extremely kind to them.
As good as the La Habra boy’s golf program is, the school was lacking of a girl’s program. However, thanks to the perseverance of Verdugo, he has recently founded just that.
“I’ve been very blessed with great support from our Principal Dr. Zenner and our Athletic Director Mr. McCarrol in the creation of a Lady Highlander Golf Team. There is a huge need and opportunities for girl golfers at the collegiate level and it’s a great lifelong game that can help in their future business endeavors.” describes Verdugo.
Verdugo was glad to see a total of 20 girls with very little experience come out for the team and display their willingness to learn about the game. With only four girls having actual golf clubs, Verdugo claims he was very fortunate to have friends and family donate golf clubs to the program so that each girl had a set of clubs.
“Over this past year I have taught the girls the basics of the golf swing and the basic etiquette of the game.” adds Verdugo.
Now that the team is set, the Lady Higlanders will work diligently as their first official match will come next season. Coach Verdugo is looking forward to seeing the girls put their skills to the test and if the boys can edge out Sunny Hills and Troy for the league title.

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La Habra soccer loses to Lynwood

Posted on 16 February 2013 by La Habra Journal

By Daniel Hernandez
La Habra Journal
LHHS Soccer_1
Behind by a score in the last minute of an elimination playoff game, the La Habra High School boy’s soccer team, out of desperation, pushed extra players forward on offense only to watch one last attempt at a goal bounce off the cross bar.

The Highlanders fell to the Lynwood Knights Friday evening 2-1 in the first round of the Division II CIF-SS playoffs, where the La Habra boys found themselves down late in the game after squandering an early 1-0 lead.

“You just start attacking,” said La Habra Head Coach Stephen Aanderud. “That’s all you could do.”

With time dwindling away, Highlander defensive back, Sammy Lopez, in a last ditch effort, grabbed possession of the ball about eight yards in front of the opposing team’s goal in stoppage time — he had only the goalkeeper to beat.

Settling down and peering up at his opportunity, Lopez, a senior, placed his shoelaces on the ball.

As the shot missed its mark, the crowd let out a collective groan, realizing that time was about to expire.

“It was just really quick, and you couldn’t really think about it. You just got to take the shot, but the shot didn’t come out right, and it hit the post,” Lopez, who has not decided if he will continue playing ball in college, said.

Although the Highlanders started off slow with Lynwood capturing most of the opening momentum, the La Habra boys managed to put the first goal in the back of the net in the 17th minute of the game.
With the ball bouncing around Lynwood’s six-yard box, sophomore Ray Flores managed to put a head on it, placing the ball to the right side of the net and catching Lynwood goalkeeper, Angel Rosas, off guard.

“I got the rebound and finished it,” Flores said.

The score was a momentum shifter for the Highlanders who had attempted one shot before the score and saw Lynwood winning most of the possession early.

But the lead would not last long as Lynwood player Luis Felipe scored the first of his two goals in the game.

In the 34th minute of the game Felipe attacked the Highlander’s defense from the far corner of the field where he made two solid moves to beat two defenders, freeing himself up to blast a shot that bounced off goalkeeper Joel Garcia and find the back of the net.

Garcia started the game in place of junior Richie Ruiz who could not play because of injury, Aanderud said.

“They just outplayed us. They just wanted it more than we did,” the coach said.

Both teams came out strong in the second half, neither dominating in time of possession.

However, Lynwood managed to put in the second goal of the game in the 49th minute.

Receiving a pass from Andrew Jimenez, Felipe struck a low shot to the left goal post for his second and the games final score of the evening.

The shot just missed the outstretched hands of the diving Highlander goalkeeper.

The La Habra soccer team finished the season with a 12-7-2 record, finishing with the best record in the Freeway League, despite what coach Aanderud calls a young team that needed to adjust throughout the season to a different style of play.

Usually relying on quick passes and scoring plays, Aanderud said his team depended more on the long ball this season.

The Lynwood Knights will move on to round two of the division II CIF-SS playoffs, taking on the winner of Santiago/Corona and Thousand Oaks.

Aanderud said his team tended to lose the fighting spirit in them whenever they’d lose a lead this season. He attributed the game changing momentum to having a young team.

“Next year we’re going to have to be ready. When we get ahead, we have to stay ahead,” Flores said.

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Lancers prove to be too fast for Highlander hoops

Posted on 11 January 2013 by La Habra Journal

By Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

LHHS+SHS Girls_basketball_Web_cFULLERTON–The La Habra boys basketball team had difficulty keeping up with Sunny Hills’ rapid pace and scoring in a 77-58 loss at Sunny Hills High, Friday night.

La Habra spent most of the game fighting from behind after the Lancers put up 27 first-quarter points with the help of seven 3-pointers.

Adam Cooley led the Highlanders with 14 points and guards Justin Jaimez and Zach Gray added 10 points each in defeat.

The trouble started early and after a couple minutes of back-and-forth scoring, the Lancers started burying 3-pointers.

Max Thurman and Shae Patel hit three long distance shots apiece a sophomore guard Tim Ahn added one more as the Lancers held a 27-15 lead at the end of the first quarter.

From that point on, La Habra adjusted on defense and only allowed two more 3-point baskets.

But after both teams were even in the second quarter, the lead was still 12 points for Sunny Hills going into the half with the score at 43-31.

Patel scored 12 points in the first half on four 3-pointers to lead the Lancers.

Balanced scoring helped Sunny Hills push the lead in the third quarter.

Four different Lancers scored at least four points as Sunny Hills took a 63-45 lead into the final quarter.

La Habra got half of its fourth quarter points from the free throw line as the Lancers fouled the Highlanders into the double bonus.

With a 3:21 left to play, both teams put in reserve players to finish out the contest.

La Habra remains winless in the Freeway League, but will face off against Fullerton, which is also still looking for its first league win, on Wednesday night at Fullerton High at 7:30 p.m.

The Highlanders came close to getting a league win two nights prior in a home game against Troy.

With both teams missing their leading scorers, La Habra made things difficult for the visiting Warriors, but missed plenty of scoring opportunities in a 53-47 loss.

Gray led the Highlanders with 11 points, while Jaimez and Michael Banks scored nine each.

The Highlanders spotted Troy a 15-11 lead in the first quarter and for most of the contest, La Habra trailed by those same four points.

Devin Manning and Ben Stiver led the Warriors (15-4, 2-0) with 16 points each and Manning scored 13 of his in the first half and nine in the second quarter alone.

In the second half, Stiver resumed the scoring duties, putting up 12 points, six of which came from the free throw line.

Troy’s biggest lead in the contest was eight points in the second quarter before La Habra reeled it in before the half.

The Warriors outscored La Habra by one point in each of the third and fourth quarters.

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