In a season devoted to remembering a tragic loss, it was fitting that the play that triggered the Los Amigos High football team’s 14-0 nonleague win over Saddleback on Thursday culminated behind the line of scrimmage.
Outside linebacker Justin Boyer flashed off the edge and knocked the ball from the Saddleback quarterback to allow a Lobos’ teammate to collect the recovery at the Roadrunners’ one at Segerstrom High.
One play later, on its first offensive snap of the game in the red zone, Los Amigos used a one-yard touchdown run by Juan Contreras to take the lead for good with 6:02 left in the third quarter.
Boyer’s big play was the second strip sack of the night for the Lobos (1-2), who blanked Saddleback (1-2) for a second straight meeting and halted an eight-game losing streak that dated to last season.
The win was extra emotional, said Lobos coach Maopu Tuato, who stepped in to fill the void created by the sudden death in April of then-head coach Harold McDowell. The team is dedicating its season to McDowell, a longtime assistant at the school, who had just taken over the program before his death after former coach Carl Agnew left to become the offensive coordinator at Lakewood High.
“[The win] is pretty amazing,” said Maopu, a former star quarterback and veteran assistant for the Lobos who played under and coached alongside McDowell. “We’ve been through a lot in the last few months and getting this monkey off our back is really special right now for me, and I’m sure for the kids as well. We really needed this. We just got the [commemorative] patches for Harold for our uniforms this week, so this is a pretty special night to honor him.”
The black patches with the initials “HM” embroidered in orange and worn on the front shoulder pad of the players, were consistently and violently applied to Saddleback ball carriers Thursday.
The Roadrunners, who were handled 48-0 by Los Amigos last season, managed just 36 offensive yards against a Lobos unit that had allowed 46 combined points in two losses coming in.
End Arturo Torres added to Boyer’s 19-yard strip sack with a fumble-forcing sack that resulted in a 17-yard loss and a turnover to halt the Roadrunners’ first possession.
Juan Mendiola, Carlos Vargas, Moises Magdaleno, Joshua Mejorada, Joseph Hernandez, Gabriel Langinbelik, Angel Garcia, Adolfo Chavez, Bao Huynh, Joshua Barriga and Mathew Galindo were additional defensive contributors for the Lobos, who had been outscored an average of 35-10 in the eight consecutive losses.
Saddleback’s deepest penetration was the Los Amigos 40-yard line, one play after the hosts recovered a fumble at the Lobos’ 46. The Roadrunners’ next seven possessions included just one that crossed midfield — that one just barely, to the Lobos’ 49.
The defense covered for a sputtering Los Amigos offense that was plagued by two lost fumbles, penalties and a general lack of productivity.
The Lobos did add onto the lead by driving 72 yards on 10 plays, with Galindo settling into an open spot in the secondary on a curl route, juking a defender and darting into the end zone with a 20-yard scoring pass from Boyer with 8:24 left in the game.
Los Amigos had 180 offensive yards, but had just one run and one pass play resulted in more than 13 yards, with none more than 20. The Lobos also totaled 112 penalty yards on 11 infractions.
“We’re making a lot of immature mistakes,” Maopu said. “Luckily, we have a group on defense that just plays [all out] all the time. The strip sack that we fell on at the one kind of got us going.”
Vargas led the Lobos’ ground game with 76 yards on 14 attempts, 50 of those yards coming on five first-quarter carries.
Boyer completed nine of 17 passes for 80 yards, but made a bigger impact on defense.
“He actually prefers the defensive side of the ball,” Maopu said of Boyer, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound senior. “He’s an exceptional athlete and we can’t just waste him on one side of the ball.”
Los Amigos 14, Saddleback 0
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Los Amigos 0 – 0 – 7 – 7 — 14
Santiago 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 — 0
LA – Contreras 1 run (Barriga kick), 6:02.
LA – Galindo 20 pass from Boyer (Barriga kick), 8:24.
LA – Vargas, 14-76.
S – Madrid, 14-46.
LA – Boyer, 9-17-0, 80, 1 TD.
S – Soto, 4-11-0, 23.
LA – Galindo, 5-47, 1 TD.
S – Ramirez, 3-21.
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