CALABASAS — This was one that wouldn't slip away late.
The Flintridge Prep football team, whose second-half struggles this season have seen it lose leads and games late and even settle for a tie in one contest, made sure to vanquish Prep League opponent Viewpoint early and thoroughly on a hot Friday afternoon in Calabasas for it's first win of the season, 35-0.
"It's a great feeling to finally get it," said running back/defensive back Chris Wirthlin, who led the Rebels with 124 rushing yards and two touchdowns in 10 carries. "We've been working so hard for so long and I think we really needed this as a team."
Prep's offensive line opened some big holes, with the Rebels breaking long touchdown runs of 61 and 53 yards to put the game away, while the defense came up with back-to-back game-turning interceptions in the first half and held the Patriots to just 108 yards of offense all game.
"It feels good, no one wants to be winless, as a player, as a coach, as a program or a school," said first-year Prep Coach Antonio Harrison, whose program's last win came nearly a year ago to the day Friday, a 41-14 win over Viewpoint on Nov. 6. "I think we've gotten the monkey off our back and I'm hoping we can carry the momentum into next week."
Although it took a 7-0 lead on it's second possession —on a 13-yard touchdown run by Eric Kazangian to cap a two-play, 38-yard drive with 5:51 left in the first quarter — Prep had to punt on three of its first four possessions to begin the game.
The Rebels' first-half scoring would eventually be sparked by some big defensive plays, beginning with Jordan Whaley's interception of Patriots quarterback Alex Satnick's attempt at a swing pass to the left sideline on third down and six at the Viewpoint 27-yard line with 5:21 to play in the second quarter.
Whaley made the pick at the Viewpoint 33-yard line and returned it 21 yards to set up his own 12-yard scoring run on the Rebels' next offensive play with 5:14 left in the half.
The Patriots (2-5-1, 0-3-1 in league) tried the exact same swing-pass play on second and long during their very next possession and suffered an identical result, as Wirthlin was able to read the route even before the snap and make an easy pick and return to the Viewpoint 18 at the 4:18 mark.
"It was pretty obvious, me and Jordan both kind of saw it coming when we got [the interceptions]," Wirthlin said. "The sideline was helping us out. My Coach before the play said, 'Watch No. 6, it's coming to him.'"
Wirthlin would complete the ensuing touchdown drive with a two-yard run at the 1:44 mark.
After going nowhere in seven plays and over four minutes on its first possession of the second half, Viewpoint saw its deficit deepen in the blink of an eye when Kazangian, who would finish with 116 yards rushing in just six carries, went 61 yards on a sweep to the right for a touchdown on the very first play after Prep got the ball back.
"We were really aggressive this game and we all just did our responsibilities," Wirthlin said. "When the team as a whole does that, things click."
Wirthlin took an inside handoff and bounced out to the left sideline where he streaked 53 yards for the final touchdown of the game with 56 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
"We treated Viewpoint just like we would any other team and we prepared for them the same way," said Harrison, whose team (1-6-1, 1-3) will close out its season at Webb on Friday. "We told these boys it's Viewpoint's senior night, we have an 0-6-1 record and they're gonna be pumped up for this game, so you guys have to come out here and not only match but surpass their intensity."