LA CANADA-FLINTRIDGE -- It was a scene that had become all too familiar for the Flintridge Prep football team.
A running clock was in use in the waning moments with one clearly dejected squad just waiting for the contest to end and the other already in party mode.
Yet, at Saturday evening’s Prep League opener at La Cañada High, there was a nice little twist.
This time around, it was the Rebels dancing and scoring and dancing after scoring in a 54-19 victory over visiting Chadwick.
“I’m so proud of these boys,” Flintridge Prep Coach Antonio Harrison said. “I told them this game was about separating the men from the boys and they came out as young men tonight.”
The real battle may have been won at the line of scrimmage, as the Rebels (3-3 overall, 1-0 in league) manhandled the Dolphins (3-3, 0-1) in running for 393 yards, led by the stellar effort of junior running back Stefan Smith.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound back was nearly unstoppable in rushing 14 times for 171 yards and three touchdowns, while also hauling in two receptions for 24 yards and another score.
“The difference for us this year is experience. We’ve been at the bottom and we know how tough it is to get back up,” Smith said. “I’m so proud of everyone. We all wanted this game.”
The Rebels increased their 16-point halftime lead behind Smith’s brawn, as the junior broke three tackles and scored on a 32-yard run on Flintridge Prep’s first possession of the third quarter to propel the Rebels, after a successful two-point conversion, to a 30-6 lead.
While the Dolphins rallied with a touchdown and failed two-point conversion to climb within 30-12, Smith roared back with a devastating 11-yard touchdown catch on a fourth and goal in which quarterback Clayton Weirick (four for eight for 67 yards) threw a ball up for grabs in the back of the end zone that Smith wrestled away from a defender.
The touchdown and two-point conversion gave the Rebels a 38-12 advantage with 10:27 left in the game.
Chadwick made one last surge, again scoring quickly on a 39-yard touchdown pass from Cole Freeman to Cameron Bartlett that cut the score to 38-19 with 8:31 remaining.
Yet, Flintridge Prep iced the game with a nine-yard touchdown pass from Weirick to Kyle Law with 5:11 followed by an interesting and emphatic 13-yard touchdown run from just-inserted freshman running back Andrew Tsangeos with 1:19 left that cemented the final score at 54-19.
When asked about the significance of the last touchdown, Harrison wasn’t bashful.
“I’m not the type of coach, although I get fiery, to try to embarrass anyone because it’s about the kids,” Harrison said. “But I told them, what goes around comes around. Those things have happened with this team and I wanted to let them know it was their turn. The tide has changed, it’s time for us to go make a run at something.”
Flintridge Prep’s win avenges a 46-7 loss to the Dolphins last season, which was difficult for some to swallow.
“We had a bad taste in our mouth from last year,” Smith said. “We wanted to get it out.”
Flintridge Prep led, 22-6, at the end of the first half, thanks to a 10-yard touchdown run from Dylan Colliflower and scoring runs of 17 and 35 yards from Smith.
Chadwick punched in a late score on a four-yard run from workhorse Peter Mavredakis (18 carries and 110 yards).