GARDEN GROVE — Without a doubt, Costa Mesa High could not get anything going in all three phases against Los Amigos in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoffs Friday at Garden Grove High.
The Mustangs' special teams allowed two Anthony Magana punt returns for touchdowns, the first producing a 10-7 lead the Lobos never relinquished.
On defense, Costa Mesa was at least a half-step slow as it allowed a 63-yard touchdown sprint by running back Leonard Zambrano, the backbreaker that gave Los Amigos (9-2) a 31-7 lead with 5:08 left in the game. Another big play was a 36-yard scramble for a touchdown by quarterback Danny Hernandez, which gave the Lobos a 17-7 lead with just 46 seconds left before halftime.
More significantly, the Mustangs' offense, which was able to churn out 243 total yards and 162 yards on the ground, could not get into the end zone after senior running back Mario Smith's 30-yard touchdown opened the game.
Mesa finished with an 8-3 record, a turnaround from a 3-7 mark last season. The Mustangs finished second in the Orange Coast League at 4-1.
"We ran into a good team," Costa Mesa first-year coach Wally Grant said. "They beat us offensively, defensively and on special teams. We opened up the game and scored. They made great adjustments to what we did."
Smith opened the game with a 23-yard run before his touchdown. After that, he was held in check as Los Amigos' defense keyed on him, holding the back to 60 yards on 17 carries after his touchdown. Smith, who with 6:37 left in the third quarter was injured, had his left shoulder in a sling after the game.
Smith finished his season with 1,982 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns. He has not yet committed to any four-year university to play football.
"I gave it my all," Smith said. "I've got no comment after that."
On fourth-and-five from its own 28, with less than five minutes left in the third quarter, Mesa quarterback Nathan Alvis slinged a long pass toward Jordan Walden, who came in as the team's leading receiver. But the pass landed just long near the Lobos' 40.
Junior outside linebacker Noah JayaRajah recovered a fumble on the next possession, which gave Costa Mesa a good chance at getting right back into the ballgame. But on fourth-and-eight, Alvis was sacked, one of six on the night.
The offensive line's struggles continued into the fourth quarter. Alvis faced fourth-and-four on the Los Amigos 12. Again, he was sacked from behind.
"We lost together," Alvis said. "I'm not frustrated [with not scoring more often.] We didn't come out to play. We had an amazing season. It was a big turnaround from last season."
Another huge swing in momentum occurred in the second quarter, with the Mustangs driving on the Lobos' 10-yard line and failing to cash in within the red zone. A Mustangs' ballcarrier, while fighting for yardage as two Lobos tried to drag him down behind the line of scrimmage, appeared to throw the ball as if trying to pass it forward. The fumble was returned to the Los Amigos' 35-yard line. Several plays later, Hernandez converted on a short run on fourth-and-one inside the Costa Mesa 10 with one minute to go. Hernandez took it to the house on a six-yard touchdown run on the next play for a 17-7 Lobos lead.
Grant had a successful first season.
"We had trouble picking up schemes that they were doing," Grant said. "But I'm extremely proud of our seniors and what they did. They figured out what Costa Mesa football's going to be."
Los Amigos 38, Costa Mesa 7
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Costa Mesa 7 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 7
Los Amigos 10 – 7 – 7 – 14 – 38
CM – M. Smith 30 run (Marquez kick), 11:29.
LA – Valdez 35 field goal, 6:24.
LA – Magana 79 punt return (Valdez kick), :22.
LA – Hernandez 36 run (Valdez kick), :46.
LA – Cruz 17 pass from Hernandez (Valdez kick), 8:50.
LA – Zambrano 63 run (Valdez kick), 5:08.
LA – Magana 53 punt return (Valdez kick), 1:44.
CM – M. Smith, 18-113, 1 TD.
LA – Zambrano, 7-78, 1 TD.
CM – Alvis, 6-14-0, 81, 0 TD.
LA – Hernandez, 3-9-0, 58, 1 TD.
CM – Comer, 3-38.
LA – Perez, 2-44.