Turnovers cost Fountain Valley football in loss to Aliso Niguel

Fountain Valley quarterback Owen Tomko runs with the ball during Friday night's game.
(Spencer Grant)

Playing a complete game will definitely be a priority for the Fountain Valley High football team headed into Sunset League play.

The Barons have battled in each of their five nonleague games, but struggled after the intermission.

That trend continued Friday night, as host Aliso Niguel cruised to a 44-15 victory in its homecoming game.

“We just need to learn how to finish,” said Barons junior running back/linebacker Abdel Habibeh, who had a career-high 138 rushing yards and a touchdown in the latest setback. “We’ve had multiple games this season where we can’t finish in the second half.”

Fountain Valley (1-4), which has lost four straight games, was tied deep into the first half. But Aliso Niguel (4-2) used a three-yard touchdown run from Chase Christner to pull ahead with 2:54 remaining in the half.

The Barons went three and out, but a bad punt snap made things worse. The punter couldn’t get the kick away, and was tackled at the Fountain Valley 12-yard line.

Fountain Valley's Caine Elroy, Michael Rocha and Wasseem Homsi pursue Wolverine running back Chase Christner.
Fountain Valley’s Caine Elroy, Michael Rocha and Wasseem Homsi pursue Wolverine running back Chase Christner.
(Spencer Grant)

Three plays later, Wolverines quarterback Shaun McCaughren found Keegan Shone on a nine-yard touchdown pass, and the hosts took a 20-7 halftime advantage.

Aliso Niguel then came up with four second-half interceptions — two by Mikey Laderer and one each by Cade Mahaffey and Justin Zeppa — to quickly pull away. Laderer’s second interception and Zeppa’s pick were both returned for touchdowns.

“We can’t give up big plays,” Fountain Valley first-year coach David Gutierrez said.

“We have to make them work for it. We continued to play defense all the way through the fourth quarter. It’s tough with the turnovers, but we have to be able to deal with it. It’s experience, getting in those moments when it’s a quick turnover and now we have to fight and try to hold them to three [points].”

Gutierrez said the Barons, who were coming off a bye week, played without four starters due to coronavirus protocols. Habibeh, who had missed the last two weeks with an Achilles injury, also was tasked with playing inside linebacker for Fountain Valley.

He said he enjoyed it, adding that he hadn’t played both ways since his freshman year.

“I like hitting people hard,” Habibeh said. “The first half tonight, I think we did really well. The second half, we really just need to take care of the ball. We were put in some tough positions on the defensive side, because of turnovers.”

The Fountain Valley defense forces Aliso Niguel quarterback Shaun McCaughren to fumble the ball.
The Fountain Valley defense forces Aliso Niguel quarterback Shaun McCaughren to fumble the ball.
(Spencer Grant)

Fountain Valley junior quarterback Owen Tomko accounted for the Barons’ first-half score, hooking up with a wide-open Tyler Nowicki for a 38-yard touchdown on fourth down.

When Habibeh scored a rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter, though, it was Fountain Valley’s first second-half score since their season-opening win against Valencia.

Defensively for the Barons, junior lineman Michael Rocha had three tackles for a loss, and junior linebacker Caine Elroy had one tackle for a loss. Senior Wasseem Homsi and junior Matthew Mena combined to force a fumble.

Christner also caught a touchdown pass for Aliso Niguel, while fullback Jack Gill rumbled for a 43-yard touchdown run to supply the game’s first points.

Fountain Valley opens Sunset League play with a game at Huntington Beach on Friday night.

“We’ve just got to watch the film, see what we did wrong and talk to our guys,” Gutierrez said. “Our guys are still fighting out there. They’re very proud to be Barons and we’re proud of them as well.”

Aliso Niguel's Jack Gill, right, celebrates a touchdown.
Aliso Niguel’s Jack Gill, right, celebrates a touchdown.
(Spencer Grant)



Aliso Niguel 44, Fountain Valley 15


Fountain Valley 0 – 7 – 0 – 8 — 15

Aliso Niguel 7 – 13 – 17 – 7 — 44


AN – Gill 43 run (Shone kick), 3:40.


FV – Nowicki 38 pass from Tomko (Perry kick), 9:38.

AN – Christner 3 run (kick failed), 2:54.

AN – Shone 9 pass from McCaughren (Shone kick), 0:53.


AN – Shone 39 FG, 1:42.

AN – Christner 24 pass from McCaughren (Shone kick), 0:40.

AN – Laderer 32 interception return (Shone kick), 0:16.


FV – Habibeh 5 run (Pham run), 5:09.

AN – Zeppa 70 interception return (Shone kick), 2:19.


FV – Habibeh, 16-138, 1 TD.

AN – Gill, 2-47, 1 TD.


FV – Tomko, 8-23-4, 115, 1 TD.

AN – McCaughren, 9-14-0, 94, 2 TDs.


FV – Nowicki, 4-90, 1 TD.

AN – Zeppa, 5-46.


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