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GATEWAY LEAGUE FOOTBALL – La Mirada unable to get yards in key field positions, falls to Mayfair for sixth straight time


By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

BELLFLOWER-La Mirada High head coach Mike Moschetti has seen this picture since 2017 and even before when Mayfair High was going on winning streaks against his team in the early 2000s when the two were Suburban League members. But the more things change, as in a new league, the more they stay the same.

The inability to get first downs when facing third down, or not being able to score when inside Mayfair’s 20-yard line was the downfall for the Matadores as they lost 16-14 last Friday night at Ron Yary Stadium in the first Gateway League encounter between the two. It’s the sixth straight loss to the Monsoons after winning four straight meetings. Since 2004, L.M. has gone through stretches of five straight and six straight losses to Mayfair.

“They kicked our butt up and down the field,” said Moschetti. “Our defense did a good job. I believe we got tour turnovers. But something that’s plagued up the past couple of years, we just can’t run the ball inside the red zone. If you can’t run the ball in the red zone, you’re going to lose. It was the same end zone as last year at the same spot. We couldn’t run the ball.

“The bottom line is Mayfair…those kids are tougher than us, they wanted it more than us and they find ways to beat us and we find ways to lose,” he continued.

Last season, L.M. couldn’t run the ball in a 15-10 loss to the Monsoons and last Friday night, the Matadores could only get 107 yards on 33 carries. On top of that, junior Kyle Steinbrecher was rushed out to kick a potential game-winning 25-yard field goal with 48 seconds left in the game. Moschetti says he hits 99 out of 100 times, bur the game was not lost on the attempted field goal, which went wide right. That’s after L.M. had first and goal from the six-yard line with just over two minutes left in the game.

Senior linebacker Tanner Roberts recovered a fumble on the fifth play of the game, but the Matadores went three and out on their only possession of the opening quarter. Mayfair would immediately go 81 yards on 12 plays and scored the game’s first touchdown 12 seconds into the second quarter when Evan Tomich tossed a 20-yard pass to Max Mitchell. Still, the L.M. defense was doing its part to stay in the game.

After the second straight three and out by L.M. (3-4 overall, 1-1), the Monsoons were looking for another score. But freshman linebacker Kimani Tuitasi picked off Tomich at the L.M. 10-yard line and returned the ball to the 27-yard line. The Matadores would get to the Mayfair 36-yard line before turning the ball over on downs with 66 seconds left in the half.

Mayfair took advantage and went up 10-0 after a 35-yard field goal from Rocco Mercado as time expired. The Matadores were held in check in the first half, gaining only 38 yards and running 16 plays while the Monsoons had piled up 159 yards on 31 plays,

“We couldn’t get off the field in the first half,” said Moschetti of his team’s defense. “I think we ran 13 plays the whole first half. They killed us on third down, we never had the ball, we can’t get off the field on third down. We did a good job of getting turnovers, but…we line up wrong, we don’t know who to block. That’s on us as coaches. We need to do a better job of getting these kids prepared and come back next week and live to fight another day.”

The defense continued to shine in the third quarter with senior Dillon Nichols recovering a fumble after a Roberts punt and junior linebacker Anthony Edwards Jr. intercepting Tomich at the Mayfair 40-yard line three and a half minutes into the stanza. This time, the turnover paid off as Roberts scored on an eight-yard run at the midway point of the quarter.

The momentum lasted only 61 seconds as Mayfair went up 16-7 after Tomich scampered for a 63-yard touchdown run. But the Matadores would answer right back, finishing the quarter with eight plays and 70 yards, including two key receptions of 34 and 23 yards respectively from freshman Jordan Lauago. Roberts would begin the fourth quarter with a seven-yard score and L.M. was back in the game.

After completing nine of his first 10 passes for 103 yards, Tomich would hit three of his next 10 attempts for 31 yards, another reason why the Matadores were still in the game in the second half. Tomich would also lead Mayfair with 89 yards on seven carries.

“He was the difference in the game,” said Moschetti. “We had him sacked and he threw a touchdown pass in the first half. The game was there for the taking, but the bottom line is we couldn’t get short yardage runs all night long and that comes down to they’re tougher than us and we’re not physical. You have to be physical to be able to win in the playoffs and you need to be physical when you’re in big time games like this.”

Senior quarterback Nehuel Garcia was quietly 12 of 19 for 109 yards and senior running back C.J. Zackery led the ground game with 55 yards on 16 touches. Defensively, Tuitasi led everyone with seven and a half tackles while senior defensive back Denver Stillman added five tackles.

The Matadores will try to get back to .500 when they host Paramount High tonight on homecoming night. It’s the first of three straight home games to end the regular season. The Pirates enter the game at 1-6, 0-2 and are coming off a 62-0 loss to Warren High last Thursday. Paramount has had trouble scoring all season, getting blanked three times and scoring 53 points in the seven games. But Moschetti isn’t overlooking the last regular season opponent with a losing mark the Matadores will face.

“When you’re 3-4, you’re not overlooking anybody,” said Moschetti. “We’re just not very good right now. We need to fix our offensive line; we have some offensive line problems. We lost a senior last week [to an injury]. We lost another senior earlier in the year, so we’re down a couple of offensive linemen. There’s no excuses. These young men have to step up and be physical and be ready to play.”