First published in the Sept. 16 print issue of the San Marino Tribune.
Following two weeks of playing the hammer, San Marino High School’s varsity football team got a little taste last Friday of what it feels like to be the nail.
The lesson came at the hearty hands of Fillmore High School, who paid a visit to the 91108 and outplayed the Titans in just about every facet of the game en route to a 35-7 nonleague victory that, quite frankly, wasn’t as close as the final score might seem to indicate.
It took the hosts until the final minute of the contest to get on the scoreboard when senior quarterback Niko Mavridis connected with wide receiver Andrew Hornberger to erase the Titans’ goose egg. Toby Pedroza booted the extra point to conclude the game’s scoring.
The two teams traded punts to open the game, but in their second possession the Flashes (2-1 record) began to assert themselves. Tailback Anthony Chessani opened the scoring with a two-yard plunge on the second play of the second quarter, with Matthew Magana tacking on the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
The Titans (2-1 record) moved inside the red zone on their next two possessions but each time the Flashes forced them to turn the ball over on downs.
The Titans mounted a solid march at the end of the second quarter, but the Flashes again held on downs and took a 7-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Fillmore head coach Walter Weis IV might want to bottle and sell whatever he said in the locker room during the break because the Flashes scored, well, in a flash, needing just three plays for Chessani to find the end zone again on a 37-yard scamper for a 14-0 lead early in the third quarter.
The Titans were forced to punt again and, five plays later, Fillmore was back in the end zone for a 21-0 advantage.
The Flashes continued to win the battle of field position and the guests traversed a short field to increase their cushion to 28-0.
Fillmore then capitalized on another turnover, crossing the goal line on the fourth play of the fourth quarter to make it 35-0.
Credit the Titans for persistence, perseverance or just plain pluckiness as they mounted a final push with lass than two minutes left in the game. Mavridis found Hornberger on a short route over the middle, but he seemingly refused to be brought to the ground, scoring the six points for pride’s sake, itself.
Mavridis ended the night completing 13 of 16 passes for 156 yards and the score, but threw his first interceptions of the year in defeat.
Hornberger caught nine of Mavridis’ offerings for 90 yards and the touchdown. Sophomore Mikey Yessaian caught four passes for 31 yards. Michael Prappas, Trevor Anton, Coleman Morning, Ryder Yoshitake and Jayden Hollomand made a grab apiece.
The Titans received the bad news earlier in the week that junior tailback and inside linebacker Ryan Singhal, an All-Rio Hondo League performer last year as a sophomore, has been lost for the season with a knee injury. Head coach Ray Torres turned to Anton, a junior, Yoshitake, a sophomore, and Nathan Yarahmadi, also a 10th-grader, to fill in the gap. The big, aggressive Fillmore defense, however, yielded just 79 rushing yards on 20 carries, less than four yards a pop.
Despite giving up 35 points, the Titans’ defense turned in a yeoman performance, as they were often forced tom defend a short field. Prappas led the charge with 14 tackles, followed by Brendan Long, who recorded seven tackles and two sacks. Morning was credited with seven tackles and received help from
Ryan Park and Ryan Qu (five tackles apiece) and Hornberger, Yarahmadi, Vasu Mohanan, Nick Escamilla and Jay Bell, who made four stops apiece. Sophomore Preston Montano also made two tackles for San Marino.
“I thought our defense did a good job,” Torres said during a telephone interview Monday morning. “They played very well; we were just in some difficult spots in regards to field position. We gave them too many opportunities and we didn’t execute offensively the way we wanted to. We didn’t finish our drives and they are a very good team.”
Torres singled out Prappas for a stellar defensive effort and Hornberger for his outstanding play on offense.
“Mike [Prappas] was flying all over the place,” Torres said. “He played really well.”
The coach also mentioned Long’s “big game” and also praised Yoshitake for a solid two-way effort.
“Our offensive line also graded out very well throughout the game,” he added. “But they were pretty much what I thought they would be. Fillmore is a well-rounded team; they have bigger players in both size and in numbers. They knew how to take away the things we wanted to do. We got into the red zone a few times but we just couldn’t score. I take responsibility for some of that. If I had to do it all over again I would maybe call some different plays.”
Torres was impressed, however, with his team’s attitude.
“We never gave up and the kids continued to listen to the coaching staff,” he said. “We played hard and at the end of the day that is what I want the most. I loved that they did not give up and that the defense played really well. I also loved that we were disappointed that we lost and kept a positive attitude all night.”
Torres also acknowledged that the absence of Singhal left a significant void.
ENTER THE MATADORS
San Gabriel comes calling this evening 7 p.m. for a rare Thursday contest. The revamped Matadors have a 3-0 record with shutout wins over El Monte Mountain View and Glendale to go with a 37-14 victory over Gabrielino in the San Gabriel intracity showdown.
“They are a pretty good team,” said Torres. “They have good size up front and operate a pro-style offense. They really like to run the ball and are very athletic.”
Junior Robert Lucero will get most of the carries and has already rushed for over 600 yards and seven touchdowns in San Gabriel’s three wins. Elijah Muniz and Oscar Ortega are also ready to pitch in at any time for the Matadors, who average a remarkable 11 yards per carry.
“They will run the ball most of the time,” said Torres. “They are a solid team. We cannot allow them to run the ball and eat up clock. We will need to focus and play smart football. I told the team that we cannot be content with winning just two games. Let’s keep it going.”
Photos courtesy Raymond Quan