Griffins Hold Off Highlanders

Led by a stalwart defensive effort, the Griffins pull away in the second half and hold on to remain undefeated and win their fourth of the season…

The atmosphere was electric in La Habra on Friday night as two traditional powers faced off in a heated non-league matchup. The La Habra Highlanders, the perennial powerhouse of the Freeway League, came into the game with a perfect 3 and 0 record and were coming off a dominating 52-7 victory over Westminster in the previous week. The Griffins of Los Alamitos came in with the same undefeated record, and behind the play of senior quarterback Clark Evans, were looking to continue their successful 2008 campaign.

Coming into the second quarter of play, it looked as if a La Habra miscue would open up the game for Los Alamitos. After a botched handoff from the Griffins' fourteen, the Griffins recovered the fumble and took possession on the twenty-two-yard line. While the Griffins were able to drive the ball down to the forty-two-yard line, La Habra held strong to force a punt on 4th and 2.

With 4:59 left in the second quarter, the Highlanders regained possession at the 50-yard line. La Habra made quick work of their great field position and punched it in for the touchdown on a quarterback draw to give them the lead 7-6, following the extra point.

Los Alamitos would answer back in dramatic fashion. With 6.4 seconds left in the first half, Los Alamitos had 1st and 10 at the Highlander 37-yard line. Evans took the snap, dodged the pass rush to his right, and stepped up to deliver a beautiful ball to the left corner of the endzone to senior receiver Darryl Jenkins. Rather than settle with the extra point, head coach John Barnes elected to go for two. Evans would go on to convert the two-point attempt, plowing into the endzone up the gut, and with time expired, the Griffins went into halftime with a 14-7 lead.

In the second half, turnovers would prove to be La Habra's undoing, as Los Alamitos took advantage on the scoreboard. After an encroachment penalty gave them 1st and 5 on the second half's opening drive, the Highlanders fumbled the ball and the Griffins took over at the La Habra nine-yard line. Los Alamitos worked quickly to score as Jenkins took a screen pass off third and goal to make the score 20-7.

Things did not get any better for La Habra as they turned the ball over on their very next possession. While it looked like La Habra might answer with a scoring drive of its own, the Griffins defense stepped up at the right moment. On 1st and 10 at the Griffin 25, Los Alamitos defender Joshua Barut picked off an errant pass to give the ball back to his offense. The Griffins went on to drive all the way down the field, and into the 4th quarter, where they scored on a 1-yard run by Evans.

La Habra refused to quit, however, as they certainly made the end of the game pretty interesting. After scoring twice on two quarterback scrambles, the Highlanders found themselves down by a touchdown with 29.8 seconds remaining in the game. Although it was a long shot, the ensuing onside kick provided a brief glimmer of hope and excitement for the Highlander faithful. Initially, the officials ruled that the Highlanders had indeed recovered the onside kick. However, as the La Habra offense was set to make one last heave into the endzone, further deliberation by the officials gave the ball to the Griffins.

Despite the controversial ending, the Griffins were impressive in victory as they improve to 4-0 and are set to take on Narbonne next Friday in Harbor City. La Habra drops to 3-1 and will travel to take on San Clemente.

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