ANAHEIM — Both head coaches said it was a tale of two halves.
The problem for the Costa Mesa High football team was that Katella did just a bit more in the first half than the Mustangs did in the second half.
Katella lost nearly all of an 18-point halftime lead but hung on late after a key interception, scoring a 21-13 nonleague victory over Costa Mesa on Friday night at Glover Stadium.
Costa Mesa Coach Wally Grant had only one person to blame after his team fell to 1-2.
"I coached a horrible game," Grant said. "This game was all on me. My kids did what I asked them to do, and I didn't prepare them well enough. They battled for me. It was a tale of two halves. We went in there at halftime and made the adjustments that I should have made earlier.
"The defense did a great job in the second half, and I just got real pigheaded on the offensive side of the ball."
The offense looked good in the second half. After getting the ball back with just less than three minutes left, the Mustangs were driving for a possible tying score and two-point conversion.
They got to the Katella 28-yard line with 1:36 left after senior quarterback Noah JeyaRajah's scramble. The Mustangs used their last timeout.
Mesa went to the air, but the pass near the Katella sideline was intercepted by Katella junior Robert Cobb. From there, the Knights (1-1) just had to run out the clock.
"We had our shot at the end," Grant said. "I've got two good athletes out there, and we took a shot and came up short … We got what we wanted, we got man-on-man [coverage]. Their guy just went up and got the ball."
The Mustangs trailed, 21-3, at halftime, but held the Knights scoreless in the second half. A big reason was that they were able to better limit Katella junior running back TJ Ashmeade.
Ashmeade ran for 176 yards and a touchdown, but 144 of the yards came in the first half.
He exited the game midway through the fourth quarter after Katella Coach Fred DiPalma said Ashmeade aggravated his sore left shoulder.
"He actually hurt it last week," DiPalma said. "We've been babying him. This may be something where it takes a week or two to deal with it, but hopefully he'll be all right."
Katella was all right after Cobb's interception.
The Mustangs had inched closer in the third quarter on senior running back Justin Smith's eight-yard touchdown run.
Midway through the fourth, Mesa senior Markiece Traylor intercepted Robert Resendez's pass into double coverage and returned it 32 yards to the Katella three-yard line.
But Mesa was unable to punch it in, settling for Jake Lux's second field goal to draw within eight points. The Mustangs got a defensive stop to provide their one final shot, but it wasn't enough.
Smith, Oronde Crenshaw and JeyaRajah combined for 136 rushing yards for the Mustangs, who also benefited from an interception and fumble recovery, both by junior Joseph Quiroz.
Katella 21, Costa Mesa 13
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Costa Mesa 3 – 0 – 7 – 3 — 13
Katella 7 – 14– 0 – 0 — 21
Kat – Mora 10 run (Resendez kick), 7:32.
CM – Lux 30 FG, 3:26.
Kat – Resendez 1 run (Resendez kick), 10:19.
Kat – Ashmeade 10 run (Resendez kick), 3:22.
CM – Smith 8 run (Lux kick), 4:43.
CM – Lux 28 FG, 5:50.
CM – Smith, 19-61, 1 TD; JeyaRajah, 11-53.
Kat – Ashmeade, 24-176, 1 TD.
CM – JeyaRajah, 8-12-1, 14.
Kat – Resendez, 2-7-2, 81.
CM – Traylor, 6-6.
Kat – Rivera, 2-81.