LOS ANGELES — Over the course of the nonleague portion of the season in which the Flintridge Prep football team failed to win a game, there was more than one Friday night where the Rebels felt they had let an opponent off the hook.
In the Prep League opener on Friday at Occidental College, Prep spent three quarters fighting to reel in the biggest catch in the CIF Southern Section Northeast Division — top-ranked Chadwick — but just when the Rebels seemed well on their way to a season-changing victory, the Dolphins wriggled free and escaped with a 33-19 victory.
"How do we have the ball the entire third quarter and can't put it away?" Rebels Coach Antonio Harrison wondered aloud after watching his team allow 20 unanswered points over the final 12 minutes 30 seconds of the game. "We come out here against the No. 1-ranked team in the division and kick their ass up and down the field for three-and-a-half quarters, they get two big plays and our guys can't respond. I don't know what to tell you."
After taking a 13-0 lead with just over three minutes gone by in the first quarter, Prep (0-4-1) still maintained a 19-13 lead by the end of the first half, which saw Rebels quarterback Kyle McDonald (seven for 13 for 138 yards) pass for two scores and rush for another.
The third quarter began well for the Rebels, also, with a fumble recovery at their own 21-yard line at the 10:59 mark.
The Rebels turned around and mounted a drive to the Chadwick five-yard line, chewing up 7:46 of clock. Jordan Whaley (104 yards in 18 carries) ran for 57 yards on the drive, but had to leave the field with severe cramping with the ball on the five.
Having already lost fullback Lucas Kim to a leg injury a few plays earlier, the Rebels ran four plays from inside the Dolphins' five-yard line, including the last two from the one, and turned the ball over on downs with 42 seconds left in the quarter.
"It was huge," Harrison said of losing both players with the end zone near.
Despite its worst starting field position of the night by far, Chadwick's vaunted offense finally came alive with running back Chudi Iregbulem breaking a 99-yard touchdown run to tie the game, and it remained tied when Chris Wirthlin blocked the extra-point attempt.
While still very much in the game by the end of the third quarter, the fourth quarter was an unmitigated disaster for Prep, beginning with a 25-yard interception return by Chadwick's Jonathan Sojo for a touchdown and a 25-19 lead after the rushing conversion attempt also failed.
Desperately needing a stop after being forced to punt with 6:20 left on its next possession, Prep saw Chadwick (6-0) slice 70 yards down the field in just over three minutes, scoring on an 11-yard run up the middle by Iregbulem, who finished with 201 yards and two touchdowns in 20 carries.
Wirthlin caught a touchdown pass and Jared Norsworthy hauled in a 79-yard score on the game's first play.