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CIF-SS DIV. 7 PLAYOFFS – La Mirada unable to recover from early mistakes, big deficit in quarterfinal loss

 

La Mirada High senior running back Amel White is off to the races down the Pasadena High sideline as Cameron Mitchell tries to catch up in last Friday night’s CIF-Southern Section Division 7 quarterfinal game. White gained a game-high 105 yards on 10 carries but the Matadores fell to the Bulldogs 41-31. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.

 

November 15, 2021

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

It happened against El Toro High, albeit in a three-point loss. It happened against St, Margaret’s High and Millikan High in consecutive weeks in early September and again against Golden Valley High in a CIF-Southern Section Division 7 first round playoff game.

But this time La Mirada High, which trailed Pasadena High by 20 points 16 and a half minutes into its quarterfinal game, could not mount another rally and was bounced out of the playoffs, 41-31 last Friday night at Excelsior Stadium in Norwalk to see their season end at 7-5.

“And the four turnovers,” said La Mirada head coach Mike Moschetti, adding to the other reason for the loss. “We turned the ball over three times last week and we turned it over four times this week. We turned it over three times against Mayfair [on Oct. 8]. The one thing we’re proud of is these kids never quit. We fought, we had a chance, we go for two to make it [34-18] with an onside kick we should have got [and] who knows, it’s a different game. But we just didn’t make the plays when we had to, and we turned the ball over four times.”

On the last play of the third quarter, junior quarterback Nehuel Garcia tossed a nine-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Aidan Nasser and when senior running back Amel White ran in the two-point conversion, La Mirada was in the game at 34-18.

The Matadores were unsuccessful with the onside kick but were able to force the Bulldogs to punt and when Nasser caught a one-yard jump pass from junior Tanner Roberts with 7:12 left in the game, it was 34-24. However, another onside kick was covered up by Pasadena and Mekhi Fox was able to ice the game with 2:51 remaining with a 13-yard touchdown run.

La Mirada began the second half trailing 20-10 and was primed to get some points after running the first 12 plays of the third quarter. But a fumble at the 20-yard line was recovered by Torriq Brumfield, who returned the pigskin to the 41-yard line and five plays later, Kaden Taylor threw a 48-yard score to Jason Sanford Jr. with 3:26. It would deteriorate for La Mirada as Fox returned a punt 58 yards for a score a little over two minutes later to make it 34-10.

Pasadena, the top-seeded team in the division, set the tone early in the game when Taylor ended a nine-play, 74-yard drive with a six-yard score 4:16 into the contest. On La Mirada’s third play of the game, Garcia was picked off by Daylon Beasley and that resulted in a Taylor to Fox scoring play of 21 yards 95 seconds later. The Matadores concluded the rest of the opening quarter with 10 straight rushes totaling 38 yards, then began the second quarter with six more plays of 19 yards. But on fourth and two from the Pasadena 12-yard line, senior running back Edward Lafferre was hit for a three-yard loss.

“What’s really disheartening is the first quarter,” Moschetti said. “I don’t know if our kids were a little intimidated, but we were on our heels. [Pasadena] got the opening kickoff and went right down the field and scored. We got a little drive going…we had some decent drives. We just had to grind it out on these guys. They’re big, they’re physical, they’re athletic and our kids played with great heart and great pride tonight and we’re proud of them. We didn’t get the win but after Christmas, we’ll get back [with the] second semester and start building on the next year.”

Following alternating fumbles, the Matadores finally broke through and found paydirt when Nasser caught a 17-yard pass from Garcia with 2:12 left in the first half. The defense would hold the Bulldogs to a three and out and La Mirada made it a 10-point contest when senior Aidan Petruescu booted a 31-yard field goal as time expired.

In the first half, the Matadores were three of nine on third down conversions but three of four on fourth down conversions. However, an early defining moment in the game came when Moschetti decided not to go for the short field goal at the end of the opening drive of the second quarter. Then a fumble on third and two from the Pasadena 35-yard line ended another possible scoring opportunity.

“Looking back on it, I probably should have [gone for the field goal],” he said. “Early on, I thought we were running the ball decently against them and in the second and third quarter, we just couldn’t run the ball.”

 

La Mirada High senior defensive lineman Josh Aiono stops Pasadena High quarterback Kaden Taylor in last Friday night’s CIF-Southern Section Division 7 quarterfinal game. Taylor gained 27 yards on the ground as he helped his Bulldogs knock off La Mirada 41-31. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.

 

 

 

Even though La Mirada was outgained 188-156 in the first half, it had the ball for 14:03 and ran 16 more plays than the Bulldogs, a sign that the Matadores were still in the game despite trailing by 10 points at the break. But the wind came out of the sail with the fumble in the third quarter, followed by the two touchdowns to make it 34-10. La Mirada’s final score of the night came on a Garcia one-yard run with 3.9 seconds left to play. Garcia completed 17 of 32 passes for 191 yards and at one point, had six straight completions. He also rushed for 35 yards on nine carries.

“Week after week, he hit big fourth down conversions,” Moschetti said. “He’s banged up; he fought his ass off the whole game. He made some big time plays and it was fitting for him at the end of the game to get that quarterback sneak for a touchdown.”

White led the ground game with 105 yards on 10 plays while Lafferre added 29 yards on 17 carries. Nasser caught eight passes for 72 yards and junior wide receiver Xavier Hicks hauled in five receptions for 57 yards.

Fox, who entered the game as Pasadena’s top receiver with just under 800 yards and nine touchdowns, was a game time decision as he was nursing an injury. If he was, he was hiding it quite well as he caught three passes for 78 yards and accounted for four touchdowns.

“We prepared for him to play,” Moschetti said. “It’s the second round of the playoffs and we figured he was going to play. But they just have great skill players on the outside and we don’t have a lot of speed in the secondary. So, we have to try to play a lot of zone coverage, and they hurt us early on with their wide receiver screens. But they’re physical; they ran the ball when they had to run the ball and got the ball to their athletes.”

Despite the loss and everything that has happened in the past year and a half or so, Moschetti is still glad there was a full season and that his team, which finished in second place in the Suburban League, advanced to the quarterfinals.

“It was great,” he said. “A lot of people have had a lot of hard times the past year and a half, including my family. My brother was in the hospital for two months with Covid. My dad is not doing really well. These kids…a lot of their family members have problems, and this is what high school football is all about; their families, their friends in the stands and I just thank God that we were blessed and able to be able to come out. We have a great administration that did all the tough work with the Covid protocols to be able to get us to be able to play football. And the same with all the schools in Southern California. But it’s something these kids needed.”

 

 

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