El Camino football Coach John Featherstone says his team always performs well when it plays “between the walls” at Murdock Stadium.
Unfortunately for the host Warriors, that wasn’t the case Saturday night when they lost 38-36 to sixth-ranked Fullerton College (3-0) in a barn-burner of a Mission Conference game.
The loss snaps a 13-game El Camino winning streak and gives the Warriors a 2-1 record for the season.
El Camino’s injury streak continued Saturday. Last week, in warm-ups before a 10-9 win at Orange Coast College, all-conference center Pat Hunt injured a knee. Saturday, starting quarterback Frank Dolce was taken off the field in a stretcher with 4:20 left in the game after completing 25 of 38 passes for 266 yards. The diagnosis was a sprained right ankle.
The Warriors, known for their strong offense, just couldn’t produce in the first half. They trailed by 15 points at the half.
The Hornets scored on their first posession, a 7-play, 70-yard drive that took about four minutes.
El Camino drove only 17 yards on six plays after that. Dolce could not complete three pass attempts.
On its next posession, El Camino gained 58 yards in eight plays, but sophomore running back Neil Tuihalamaka fumbled at the Fullerton 24-yard line. Fullerton was unable to capitalize.
Next, El Camino had to settle for a field goal after a seven-play, 49-yard drive because Dolce overthrew two receivers five yards away from the end zone. Dominic Cefalone got the points with a 22-yard kick.
El Camino took the lead with 11:11 left in the first half. Freshman Nui Sale recovered a fumble by Fullerton’s Greg Portis at the El Camino 39, and then Dolce connected with Bryan Burnett for a 38-yard touchdown pass.
A pair of penalties on El Camino’s part, however, made it easy for Fullerton to score on its next posession. The first one was a defensive holding penalty good for 10 yards, and the second was a 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer. Fullerton went ahead for good, 14-9, after the lengthy posession when Ray Pallares ran for one yard and Kirk Hainline kicked the point-after.
As if things weren’t bad enough for the Warriors, with 2:41 left in the first half, the ball was snapped over punter Dominic Cefalone’s head and Fullerton recovered at the El Camino one-yard line. Pallares ran into the end zone, giving the Hornets a 21-9 lead after the kick.
Fullerton scored again on a field goal before the half was over to take a 24-9 lead.
El Camino came out stronger in the second half, but it wasn’t enough.
The Warriors scored three times. First they drove 71 yards in seven plays, and Dolce connected with sophomore Mike Jones for a 20-yard touchdown pass. Then, after a Fullerton touchdown, El Camino scored with 10:01 left in the game when Dolce connected with defensive back Lamont Hewitt for an 18-yard pass. Sale, playing quarterback, found Brett Austin wide open in the end zone for a 2-point pass conversion.
Fullerton scored again with 5:29 left in the game when Williams connected on a pass to Tim Imperiali for 30 yards to make the score 38-23.
El Camino answered by scoring twice after that, but it was too late for a victory.