It was a win that was easy for Granada Hills Coach Darryl Stroh to summarize.
He sighed. He shook his head. He laughed, sort of.
The Highlanders once again had managed to stave off attrition, this time at the expense of Taft in a 20-7 Northwest Valley Conference game Friday at Granada Hills.
“We held ‘em off for one more week. I have nobody to put in,” Stroh said. “I got 11 guys out there and that’s it.”
But the 11, actually closer to 7 who play both ways, are as good as any around. Take running back Brett Washington, for instance, who also dabbles in the defensive line and occasionally at linebacker. When he plays at linebacker, the position is nicknamed “Bandit.”
That is appropriate, because Washington, a 5-foot, 10-inch, 210-pound sophomore, came up with the steal of the season for Granada Hills.
With the score tied, 7-7, in the third quarter, Taft used a textbook, ball-control drive to move to the Granada Hills’ 13. On second and 2 from the 13, fullback Greg Bernard carried up the middle, blasted through a trio of Granada Hills tacklers and appeared to be down at the 7. The ball, somehow, ended up in the hands of Washington at the 10, and he sprinted 90 yards up the left sideline for a touchdown and, probably, a 14-point swing, with 1:45 left in the third quarter.
“I think he was probably down,” Washington said. “A linebacker knocked the ball out of his hands. I saw a live ball, grabbed it and took off. I couldn’t believe it.”
Washington scored Granada Hills’ first touchdown of the half on a 1-yard dive to tie the score, 7-7. The play capped a 69-yard, 8-play drive in which Granada Hills recorded 5 first downs--one less than in the entire first half when the Highlanders were held to only 96 yards.
“We mixed in a few passes that we thought we saw open in the first half,” said Tom Harp, Granada Hills’ offensive coordinator.
They also mixed in a lot of running back Marrio Walker, another two-way star who also plays on the defensive line. Walker, a senior, rushed for 102 yards in 15 carries, 76 yards in the second half.
Washington and Walker rarely come off the field, so the only chance the coaching staff has to talk with the pair--and the other two-way players--is at halftime.
“That’s the trouble with not being able to platoon players,” Harp said. “But you have to have your best guys out there.”
Washington put it succinctly.
“We get tired,” he said. “But you gotta suck it up.”
That’s exactly what he did with Bernard’s fumble, and the Highlanders (5-1, 3-0 in conference play) remained perfect in conference because of it.
Taft (2-3, 1-2) running back Kelvin Byrd carried 18 times for 120 yards, but the Toreadors were unable to punch the ball into the end zone when it counted. In addition to Bernard’s fumble, Taft also had a 16-yard touchdown pass from Rich Cosentino to Hyshun Dunbar with 10:03 left nullified because of an illegal receiver downfield. Taft trailed, 14-7, at the time and, 2 plays later, Cosentino fumbled and Granada Hills’ Randy Spitzer recovered at the 30.