Consecutive late defensive stands delivered the Glendale High football an important momentum-builder as the Nitros defeated Los Angeles Mendez High, 11-6, in the nonleague season opener Friday at Moyse Field.
The victory accomplished many things for Glendale, which snapped a four-game home losing streak, an overall six-game losing streak and won the team its first opening game in four years. The Nitros are also above .500 for the first time in two years and have already matched last season’s win total.
“We’ve got to keep it up, but I’m proud of them,” Nitros second-year coach Cary Harris said. “It feels good to come out here and win, especially with a young team with a lot of sophomores. They can use this.”
Last year, Glendale was humbled in its season-opener, 42-0, at Pasadena Maranatha in what was Harris’ debut and a game marred by turnovers and mistakes.
This time around, the Nitros finished even by committing and forcing two turnovers, while keeping their penalty yardage to 55 yards.
All those stats, however, meant little as Mendez, a Los Angeles City Section playoff team a year ago, picked up 40 yards on flea-flicker from quarterback Hugo Quisquinay to receiver Anthony Estrada (three catches for 59 yards) to march the Glendale 16 trailing by five with three minutes remaining.
Glendale’s defense stiffened with a tackle for a one-yard loss followed by an incomplete pass, a false start, and a one-yard gain which put Mendez with a fourth and 15 at the Glendale 21.
Whatever play the Jaguars had for the situation fizzled as the snap was botched and the Nitros took over on downs with 1:26 left.
A Nitros’ three-and-out gave Mendez hope for one last rally, but Glendale’s Juan Estrada intercepted a pass near the Glendale 30 as time expired to seal the game.
“I’m proud of this defense and I’m proud of this team because we stuck together,” Harris said. “It wasn’t pretty, but we’ll build on this and hopefully take something into the La Cañada game next week.”
Glendale’s defense scored the first points of the new season. Junior defensive back Josh Tomihara returned an interception 23 yards for a touchdown that gave the Nitros a 6-0 lead, after a missed extra point, at 5:24 in the first quarter.
“The [quarterback] threw that exact same ball a few plays earlier and I saw it and I just jumped on it,” Tomihara said.
Glendale added to its lead when kicker Edgar Ovasapyan drilled a 24-yard field goal to put the home team ahead, 9-0, with 8:51 left in the first half.
Back-to-back turnovers proved problematic for Glendale as the Nitros survived a botched punt, but did not overcome a fumble that gave Mendez possession on the home 35.
Mendez scored nine plays later on a one-yard plunge from Andres Tavares that brought the Jaguars to within 9-6, after a missed extra point, with 1:06 remaining in the first half.
A second half that included few highlights did showcase another Glendale defensive gem as linebacker Dennis Perez and defensive lineman Marc Soriano combined for a safety that extended Glendale’s advantage to 11-6 with 9:51 to play.
Perez led Glendale offensively with 10 carries for 61 yards, while Estrada completed four of five passes for 49 yards.
Jorge Charro led Mendez with 14 carries for 51 yards, while recovering a fumble that led to the team’s only touchdown.