NEWPORT COAST — The Sage Hill School football team will get a fresh start on Friday, when it opens Academy League play against visiting Crean Lutheran.
But the Lightning would have liked to have used a restart in Friday's 42-20 nonleague home loss to Firebaugh, which scored the game's first 28 points, the initial 21 by cashing in Sage Hill miscues.
It started early for the Lightning (1-5), when a botched game-opening onside kick set the visitors from Lynwood (3-4) up at the Sage Hill 24-yard line.
Three plays later, Kevin Gutierrez swept in from four yards out and the onslaught was on.
Sage Hill's second possession ended on a fumbled pitchout that Juan Holguin recovered and returned 22 yards for a touchdown midway through the first quarter.
The Lightning failed to cover the ensuing pooch kickoff and the Falcons covered 27 yards on nine plays, taking a 21-0 lead on the first play of the second quarter.
Sage Hill's ensuing possession ended with a nine-yard punt and Firebaugh's Christopher Mixon sprinted 54 yards on the next snap to give the visitors an insurmountable lead.
The two teams traded touchdowns the rest of the first half and Sage Hill went 70 yards on 16 plays with the second-half kickoff to pull within 34-13 with 3:39 left in the third period.
The Lightning, whose five-game losing streak matches its worst since 2008, regained possession when Beau Roth recovered an onside kickoff. But after Sage finished out the entire third quarter without allowing the Falcons possession, Firebaugh's Theseus Anderson intercepted at his one-yard line on the first play of the fourth quarter to virtually halt Sage's comeback hopes.
The Falcons marched 90 yards on 16 plays to take a 42-13 advantage and Sage finalized the scoring on a 34-yard pass from Taylor Petty to Conner Ascher with 15 seconds left.
Lightening senior Eric Cheng produced 85 rushing yards on 17 carries and caught three passes for 52 more. Petty, returning to quarterback after a two-game absence due to injury, carried 12 times for 29 yards and produced 96 yards on five pass completions.
But two interceptions, one lost fumble, and the aforementioned woes in the kicking game (including one missed conversion kick), helped Firebaugh earn a celebratory bus ride home.
Sage had only three runs of more than 10 yards and notched one-third of its 15 first downs via Firebaugh penalties.
Sage Offensive Coordinator Tom Kirchmeyer filled in for head coach J.R. Tolver, who served a one-game suspension after being ejected for arguing with officials after last week's 28-0 loss at Pasadena Poly.
Firebaugh 42, Sage Hill 20
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Firebaugh 13 –21 – 0 – 8 — 42
Sage Hill 0 – 7 – 6 – 7 — 20
Fir – Gutierrez 4 run (Gallegos kick), 11:10.
Fir – Holguin 22 fumble return (kick blocked), 4:23.
Fir – Booker 1 run (Gutierrez run), 11:56.
Fir – Mixon 56 run (Gallegos kick), 10:25.
SH – Petty 4 run (Melita kick), 4:18.
Fir – Gutierrez 10 run (kick failed), 1:23.
SH – Cheng 3 run (kick failed), 3:39.
Fir – Hopper 1 run (Garcia run), 3:27.
SH – Ascher 34 pass from Petty (Melita kick), 0:15.
Fir – Gutierrez, 15-112, 2 TDs; Mixon, 8-111, 1 TD.
SH – Cheng, 17-85, 1 TD.
Fir – Hopper, 0-1-0.
SH – Petty, 5-18-2, 96, 1 TD.
Fir – None.
SH – Cheng, 3-51; Ascher 1-34, 1 TD.