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Huntington Beach’s Flagg Isn’t the Star, He Just Plays Like One

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Justin Flagg is one of the other Oilers.

At Huntington Beach High, two-sport standout Tony Gonzalez usually attracts most of the attention from opponents, fans and scouts.

Gonzalez, a tight end and linebacker, leads the team in touchdowns, receptions and tackles. And the high-profile recruit already has made an oral commitment to attend California to play football and basketball next season.

Yet, in reaching their first Southern Section championship football game since winning the Lower Division minor title in 1935, the Oilers (13-0) have received heroics from other players besides Gonzalez.

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There’s quarterback Levi Schuck, who has passed for more than 1,700 yards and 20 touchdowns. He has completed 59% of his passes with only six interceptions.

There’s Nick Ziegler, a 6-foot-6, 225-pound linebacker who leads the team in sacks, and safeties Josh Holland--the team leader in interceptions--and hard-hitting Eric Escobedo.

How about Chris Yadrick? He took over at tailback after an injury sidelined Escobedo at midseason, and Huntington Beach Coach George Pascoe has kept him in the lineup since. Yadrick has averaged more than six yards per carry during the playoffs, allowing Escobedo to concentrate on defense.

And then there’s Flagg, who teams with Gonzalez at inside linebacker, doubles as the fullback, and also handles the punting.

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“He’s the one guy we can’t afford to lose,” Pascoe said.

Flagg proved Pascoe’s point during the Oilers’ 18-12 semifinal victory over Compton Dominguez.

Dominguez built a 12-0 lead and looked for the knockout late in the second quarter. With the Dons driving deep into Huntington Beach territory and the Oilers staring at a potential 20-point halftime deficit, Flagg picked up Huntington Beach off the canvas.

When Dominguez quarterback Anthony Bilbo dropped back in the pocket on second and 10 at the Huntington Beach 23, Flagg intercepted his pass at the 10 and returned it to the Huntington Beach 42. It was Flagg’s first interception of the season.

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“We weren’t getting nervous or down because Dominguez was driving,” Flagg said. “We just kept telling each other in the huddle, ‘We gotta make a play.’ ”

Said Pascoe: “No question, Justin’s interception was the biggest play of the game. He put us back in it.”

After Flagg’s big play, Schuck took the Oilers on an eight-play, 58-yard drive that culminated with Schuck’s six-yard touchdown pass to Gonzalez with 21 seconds remaining. The score cut the halftime deficit to 12-7 and set up the Oilers’ second-half rally.

Big plays such as Flagg’s have typified Huntington Beach’s undefeated season, helping it reach Saturday’s Division II championship game against Los Alamitos (13-0) at Cerritos College.

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“When Dominguez missed that first extra point, I knew we would find a way to win that game,” Pascoe said. “I knew we would start making plays.

“This team has a tremendous winning attitude . . . they expect to win, and they seem to find a way to do it.”

Flagg has been one of the Oilers’ most consistent players. He is the team’s leading rusher, with more than 700 yards, and is second on the team in touchdowns and receptions behind Gonzalez.

Although only 16, the 6-2, 225-pound fullback-linebacker has attracted the attention of Penn State, Washington and UCLA, among others.

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“I just want to play in college, wherever they put me,” Flagg said.

But he has one more high school game left, and Flagg would like to go out a winner.

“I never thought we’d be 13-0,” Flagg said. “But one of our goals was to win league and then CIF, and we’re here. This team won’t quit.”

Just look back at last week’s semifinal victory and Flagg’s pivotal interception.

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“I don’t think the quarterback ever saw me,” Flagg said.

Los Alamitos will try not to make that mistake Saturday.

Division II Facts and Figures

HUNTINGTON BEACH

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Starting Lineup OFFENSE

Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. QB 4 Levi Schuck 6-1 205 Sr. TB 25 Chris Yadrick 5-11 190 Sr. FB 31 Justin Flagg 6-2 225 Sr. WR 3 Kevin Wray 5-10 170 Sr. WR 21 Josh Holland 6-3 180 Sr. TE 44 Tony Gonzalez 6-6 225 Sr. OT 68 Jason Friend 6-2 245 Sr. OG 66 Justin Clarke 6-0 265 Sr. C 52 Aaron Kimura 6-0 240 Sr. OG 55 Chris Tizzard 6-2 200 Jr. OT 67 Nick Ziegler 6-6 225 Sr. PK 9 Jason Bartusick 5-9 165 Jr.

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DEFENSE

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Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. DT 55 Chris Tizzard 6-2 200 Jr. NG 48 Mike Reynolds 5-10 180 Sr. DT 37 Justin Draeger 6-3 185 Sr. OLB 67 Nick Ziegler 6-6 225 Sr. ILB 44 Tony Gonzalez 6-6 225 Sr. ILB 31 Justin Flagg 6-2 225 Sr. OLB 47 Scott Palmer 5-10 182 Sr. CB 3 Kevin Wray 5-10 170 Sr. CB 25 Chris Yadrick 5-11 190 Sr. SS 40 Eric Escobedo 5-10 195 Sr. FS 21 Josh Holland 6-3 180 Sr. P 31 Justin Flagg 6-2 225 Sr.

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SEASON RESULTS (13-0)

28: Downey: 12

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30: Pacifica: 14

36: Long Beach Wilson: 0

10: Edison: 7

58: Santa Ana: 14

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20: Servite: 0

14: Fountain Valley: 10

42: Ocean View: 14

49: Westminster: 7

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42: Marina: 12

Playoffs

35: Burbank Burroughs: 7

24: Cerritos Gahr: 10

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18: Compton Dominguez: 12

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LOS ALAMITOS

Starting Lineup OFFENSE

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Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. QB 5 Mike Good 6-0 185 Sr. RB 27 Enrico Bozman 5-9 185 Sr. WR 2 Tony Hartley 6-1 172 So. WR 13 Brad Melsby 6-2 181 Jr. WR 19 Anthony Tucker 6-1 170 Sr. WR 92 Mike McCullough 6-2 188 Sr. LT 63 Brian Haight 6-1 240 Sr. LG 72 George Bracamontes 6-1 222 Sr. C 52 Brad Hakala 6-2 254 Sr. RG 56 Jerome Coleman 6-1 262 Sr. RT 74 Jason Vachal 6-1 231 Jr. PK 80 Jeff Kolasa 6-2 180 Sr.

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DEFENSE

Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. DT 79 Robert Torres 6-1 205 Sr. NG 90 Mike Skaggs 6-1 231 Sr. DT 94 Steve Trammell 6-5 231 Sr. OLB 15 Mike Spinelli 6-2 205 Sr. ILB 38 Zack Kahler 5-10 195 Sr. ILB 98 Marc Albert 5-11 185 Sr. OLB 28 Ben Agold 6-1 200 Sr. CB 11 Cory Barnett 5-11 178 Sr. CB 17 Clay Kemp 6-1 177 Sr. SS 99 Brandon Timboe 6-1 180 Sr. FS 13 Brad Melsby 6-2 181 Jr. P 38 Zack Kahler 5-10 195 Sr.

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SEASON RESULTS (13-0)

37: Long Beach Jordan: 0

49: Pasadena Blair: 0

42: Marina: 0

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48: Palmdale: 26

41: Long Beach Millikan: 0

62: Cypress: 2

41: Loara: 6

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35: El Dorado: 0

49: Esperanza: 0

35: Katella: 0

Playoffs

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31: Downey Warren: 13

34: Edison: 8

42: Fountain Valley: 21


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