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ORANGE COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL / PREP EXTRA : Los Amigos Survives Its Mistakes to Win, Get Playoff Berth

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was far from convincing and hardly picturesque, but Los Amigos is in the playoffs. The Lobos turned the ball over five times and dropped at least a half-dozen passes but still escaped with 23-18 victory over Santiago Friday night at Garden Grove High.

“I have to take responsibility,” Los Amigos Coach Roger Takahashi said. “We didn’t have very good practices and it showed on the field. We were not cohesive as a coaching staff.”

But give some credit to Santiago (5-4, 3-2), which could have clinched its first playoff berth since 1987 with a victory and can still make the playoffs by beating Rancho Alamitos next week. The Cavaliers forced all but one of the five turnovers (three fumbles, two interceptions) and had Los Amigos (7-2, 4-1) on its heels much of the night.

The Cavaliers dominated the first and fourth quarters, but simply didn’t do enough in the middle quarters when Los Amigos was turning the ball over.

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“Sure we’d have liked to capitalized on the turnovers,” Haley said. “I’d like to be president someday too, but I don’t think it’s ever going to happen.”

Probably not, but Haley can at least be proud of the way his team came back from a 17-point, fourth-quarter deficit to give Los Amigos a scare. The Cavaliers and Lobos each kicked field goals early in the quarter, then Octavio Villa capped an 88-yard drive with a 16-yard run on an inside reverse. Santiago missed the conversion on a run, but it scored with 4:20 left when Pedro Hernandez picked off a Jake Sanchez pass and raced 85 yards to the end zone. The Cavaliers missed another conversion, but got the ball back with 2:17 left.

After reaching its 32, Santiago quarterback Ben Tran was sacked by linebacker Shaun Tagatauli for an eight-yard loss on third down. Tagatauli’s sack made up for two earlier fumbles from his fullback position. On fourth down, Tran threw a desperation pass that fell incomplete.

Takahashi insisted he wasn’t concerned.

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“They rely on the wing-T,” he said. “When they try to stretch it out and throw long I feel a bit more relaxed.”

But Takahashi wouldn’t have been so relaxed had his kicker, Ryan Cleary, given him some breathing room. Cleary kicked field goals of 34, 47 and 38 and missed from 52. Cleary’s 47-yarder broke a school record.

“He’s really stroking it,” Takahashi said. “He’s been coming through big.


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