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Costa Mesa football strikes last in back-and-forth game against Los Amigos

Costa Mesa's Kendrick Figueroa tackles Los Amigos' Isaac Cuevas after a short run.
Costa Mesa’s Kendrick Figueroa tackles Los Amigos’ Isaac Cuevas after a short run during a nonleague football game at Costa Mesa High on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The Costa Mesa High School football team accomplished something that has eluded the Mustangs for nearly half a decade.

With its 20-16 victory over Los Amigos, Costa Mesa has won consecutive games for the first time since 2017.

Friday’s victory came in roller-coaster fashion with the Mustangs taking the game’s last lead in the final minutes.

First-year Costa Mesa head coach Van Tuinei said he is excited to see his players experience success.

Costa Mesa's Kendrick Figueroa spins the ball in the air after a short touchdown run against Los Amigos on Friday.
Costa Mesa’s Kendrick Figueroa spins the ball in the air after a short touchdown run against Los Amigos.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“It feels great,” he said “It’s always great to win. They are starting to taste the victory, the win, what it feels like. They may be addicted to it.”

Costa Mesa quarterback Garrett Richards completed six of nine passes for 95 yards and a touchdown, adding two rushing scores. He threw three interceptions.

Running back Kobe Lemari rushed for 101 yards on 11 carries and recovered a crucial fumble on defense.

Costa Mesa (2-2) won the game on the field, but they had some extra help from a newly energized and organized student section dubbed “The Stampede.”

Last season’s COVID-19 pandemic limitations on fan attendance has made the Costa Mesa student section stand out that much more to players like Richards.

Los Amigos' quarterback Bao Huynh, left, fights off Costa Mesa pass rusher John Simco.
Los Amigos’ quarterback Bao Huynh, left, fights off Costa Mesa pass rusher John Simco.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“It feels really good,” Richards said. “It’s way better than having half a student section. It really motivates me to keep going.”

Los Amigos (2-2) has struggled with injuries. Quarterback Maysen Navarro missed the game due to injury and backup Miguel Aguilera left early as well, forcing running back Isaac Cuevas to play under center.

Cuevas delivered on both sides of the ball.

Shouldering a large portion of the offensive load, Cuevas ran for 75 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. He added three interceptions on defense to stifle multiple Costa Mesa drives.

Costa Mesa's Kobe Lemari runs up the middle through the Los Amigos defense.
Costa Mesa’s Kobe Lemari runs up the middle through the Los Amigos defense.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Cuevas made an impact early. On the ensuing drive after his first interception, he broke a tackle in the backfield and ran 14 yards to the end zone for the game’s first touchdown.

On Costa Mesa’s next possession, Richards found Kendrick Figueroa for a 14-yard game-tying touchdown pass.

In the third quarter, the teams traded touchdowns again. First, Costa Mesa scored on a Richards quarterback sneak from one yard out.

Then after Cuevas’ third interception, Los Amigos’ Bao Huynh found the end zone from eight yards away, but the Lobos failed to convert the extra point. That kept Costa Mesa ahead 14-13.

Costa Mesa receiver Riley Weinstein makes a catch and heads upfield.
Costa Mesa receiver Riley Weinstein makes a catch and heads upfield.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Los Amigos took a 16-14 lead on a 28-yard field goal from Nathan Villicana with five minutes left in the game.

Two plays after the Los Amigos kickoff, Costa Mesa’s Kobe Lemari tore through the Lobos’ defense for 68 yards before going down at the one yard line.

That set up another Richards sneak to give the Mustangs a 20-16 lead after a failed two-point conversion attempt.

Then the injury bug came for Cuevas, as well.

After a 75-yard kickoff return to the Costa Mesa 10-yard line, Cuevas needed to be helped off the field.

Costa Mesa linebacker Kevin Quach stops Los Amigos' Isaac Cuevas at the line of scrimmage.
Costa Mesa linebacker Kevin Quach stops Los Amigos’ Isaac Cuevas (5) at the line of scrimmage.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Following the injury, Los Amigos couldn’t find the end zone, losing the ball on a fumble recovered by Lemari.

Los Amigos head coach Romel Guess attributed the loss to a lack of preparation and injuries.

“I’m hurt,” Guess said. “I told the boys it’s in the preparation. It doesn’t help to be on your fourth-string quarterback in the fourth quarter. I told my guys they played hard, but I didn’t think we were prepared. We had 18 guys miss practice this week.”

But Guess said he was in awe of Cuevas.

“He leaves it on the field each and every night,” Guess said. “We hope that type of energy and effort is contagious. Tonight, it didn’t rub off on everyone like we hoped.”

Costa Mesa's Kendrick Figueroa gets tangled up with Los Amigos defenders, including Isaac Cuevas (1).
Costa Mesa’s Kendrick Figueroa gets tangled up with Los Amigos defenders, including Isaac Cuevas (1).
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Cuevas complimented his coaches and teammates for his success.

“It wasn’t just me,” he said. “I want to give a big shout-out to my coaches. I can’t do that all by myself. I did all I could, and I know my brothers gave it everything they got.”

Nonleague

Costa Mesa 20, Los Amigos 16

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Costa Mesa 7 – 0 – 7 – 6 — 20

Los Amigos 7 – 0 – 6 – 3 — 16

FIRST QUARTER

LA – Cuevas 14 run (Villacana kick), 5:14.

CM – Figueroa 14 pass from Richards (Bohena kick), 2:00.

SECOND QUARTER

None

THIRD QUARTER

CM – Richards 1 run (Bohena kick), 6:44.

LA – Huynh 8 run (kick failed), 2:29.

FOURTH QUARTER

LA – Villacana 28 FG, 5:22.

CM – Richards 1 run (pass failed), 4:14.

INDIVIDUAL RUSHING

CM – Lemari, 11-101.

LA – Cuevas, 14-75, TD.

INDIVIDUAL PASSING

CM – Richards, 6-9-3, 95, TD.

LA – Aguilar, 0-3-0, 0.

INDIVIDUAL RECEIVING

CM – Weinstein, 2-73.

LA – None.

::

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