Los Alamitos' football team--cool and sophisticated on offense, wide-eyed and vulnerable on defense--got enough of the former to survive the latter.
The Griffins, the No. 1-ranked team in Orange County, held on for a 28-27 victory over Villa Park Friday at El Modena High School. The victory preserved their undefeated record but might have threatened their ranking, considering No. 2 Esperanza's 56-14 victory Thursday night.
"Sometimes you just have to enjoy the win," Coach John Barnes said. "I'll enjoy this one."
He certainly sweated enough through it to revel in the aftermath. But when the euphoria wears off, Barnes might take a shot at shoring up the Griffin defense.
Villa Park (1-2) exposed and exploited the Griffin front line. A particular problem was Grant Pearsall, who shredded the Los Alamitos defense for 226 yards.
He also scored four touchdowns, the last on a 13-yard run that cut the Los Alamitos' lead to one with 7 minutes 44 seconds left. The Spartans elected to go for two on the conversion, but A.J. Strapp's pass slipped through the fingers of Hector Flores.
Villa Park had one more shot after forcing a punt. But on the next play, the ball was knocked out of Pearsall's hands, and Griffin defensive back Joe Ortiz recovered.
"The defense made the big play when it had to," quarterback Tim Carey said.
Through most of the game, it was Carey who did the good things, keeping the Griffins (3-0) a step ahead.
He completed 20 of 28 passes for 243 yards and one touchdown. Carey used seven different receivers including George Sagen, who had six receptions for 187 yards.
Carey dominated the first half, throwing for 218 yards. He tossed a nine-yard touchdown pass to Don Ruberio to tie the score, 7-7.
When Carey rested his arm, running back Machant Wright was a productive second option. He finished with 101 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns in the first half.
With so many weapons, the Griffins were overwhelming. They led, 28-14, at halftime.
"I can feel when we're in a groove like that," Carey said. "The receivers are always there and the blocking gives me time."
That wasn't the case in the second half.
Villa Park began to put pressure on Carey and sacked him five times; Mike Haddad had three.
With the offense held in check, the burden fell to the defense, which has seven first-year starters, and it crumbled.
Pearsall, who was filling in for injured Ryan Tsui (hamstring), carried the Spartans, quite literally. He had his third consecutive 100-yard game.
He gained 124 yards in the second half, bobbing and weaving through the Griffin defense. He scored on runs of 44, one, one and 13 yards, giving him nine touchdowns on the season.
Los Alamitos never stopped him; the Griffins merely endured him.