NEWPORT BEACH — The third quarter of the CIF Southern Section Division I first-round playoff game in eight-man football between Sage Hill and Flintridge Prep featured great defense for such a fast-paced game.
Typically, the Rebels would score about eight times a game, but give up about seven to their opponents.
Flintridge Prep nearly held the Lightning scoreless in the third quarter, but the Rebels defense couldn’t hold up for the rest of the game.
Sage Hill scored twice in the second half to defeat Flintridge Prep, 28-26, at Sage Hill on Friday.
Flintridge Prep, the No. 10-ranked Division I squad which entered the playoffs as an at-large team, also failed to advance out of the first round last season after a semifinal appearance in 2016.
Rebels quarterback John Lytle finished 20 of 32 passes for 199 yards and two touchdown and Zach Kim caught nine passes for 139 yards and a score to go along with a 63-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Running back Alexander Payne led the ground game with 16 carries for 120 yards and a touchdown to end the first quarter.
The undefeated Express League champion Sage Hill opened the scoring with 2:55 left in the first quarter on an eight-play drive. Receiver John Bush ran the corner route for a 33-yard touchdown reception and the 7-0 Sage Hill lead.
Kim cancelled that out on the next play as the sophomore went 63 yards on the ensuing kickoff to return it for a touchdown and 7-7 at the 2:40 mark.
The Rebels carried that momentum on defense and forced the No. 5-ranked Lightning to punt with 12.3 seconds left in the first frame.
Lytle found Kim for a 23-yard gain on the Rebels’ next possession, before Payne carried the ball home for a 27-yard score and the 13-7 Flintridge Prep lead as the first quarter expired.
The Rebels defense came up once again on the next Lightnings drive as Flintridge Prep forced a turnover on downs with Sage Hill on the Rebels’ 15-yard line.
Flintridge Prep couldn’t capitalize on its next possession, and that ultimately led to a Sage Hill 42-yard touchdown reception on the next Lightning drive to put them up, 14-13, with 3:22 left in the half.
The Rebels found themselves in the red zone right before halftime, but came up short on an attempt to convert on fourth down on the Lightnings’ 11.
Flintridge Prep nearly shut out the Sage Hill offense in the third quarter with a one-point deficit, but with 18.2 seconds left in the frame, Lightnings running back Nick Karahalios found an opening in the pocket and scored on a 35-yard run to break the second-half deadlock and give his side a 21-13 lead.
The Rebels nearly picked up momentum early in the fourth, but a pass to Kim was stripped on the Flintridge Prep 30. Karahalios scored three plays later on a four-yard run to put the Lightning up, 28-13, with 9:50 left in the game.
The Rebels caught a break with 6:23 left in the game as the Lightning fumbled the ball toward the end zone for a touch back.
Lytle completed a 31-yard pass to Kim four plays later to set the Rebels up on the Sage Hill five.
Lytle found Max Gitlin for a five-yard touchdown reception after three plays, but a failed two-point conversion only made it a 28-19 Sage Hill lead with 4:25 left in the game.
The lights went out for a 15-minute period as the Rebels set up play on the Sage Hill 13, but a penalty call pegged Flintridge Prep back to the Lightnings’ 22.
Nevertheless, Lytle found Kim for a 22-yard touchdown reception with 18.1 left in the game to cut it to a 28-26 Sage Hill lead.