NORTH HOLLYWOOD — With his team in dire need of someone to come up clutch, Chris Wirthlin made two huge plays late in the fourth quarter for the Flintridge Prep football team against Bellarmine-Jefferson on Friday night.
In doing so, the senior running back showed how versatile he can be when needed, as Wirthlin's heroics were enough to go a long way.
Wirthlin scored the winning touchdown on a one-yard run with 7:23 left in the fourth quarter to propel Flintridge Prep to an 12-8 nonleague win against Bell-Jeff in a season-opening contest for both teams at North Hollywood High.
On fourth down and 12 at the Bell-Jeff 33-yard line, Flintridge Prep quarterback Clayton Weirick fired a pass down to the one-yard line that Wirthlin managed to grab. On the ensuing play, Wirthlin ran up the gut to put the Rebels ahead for good.
"I don't try to think about it, because I'm just out there playing football," said Wirthlin, who rushed for 85 yards in 16 carries. "It was a regular-type catch and Clayton threw a good ball to me.
"I just jumped up for it and caught it. On the touchdown, I could have walked in, and my offensive line made it easy for me to score."
The game featured seven turnovers. Bell-Jeff committed four turnovers, with Flintridge Prep outside linebacker Daniel Jung recovering three fumbles.
Bell-Jeff took an 8-0 lead on the first play of the second quarter. Josh Martinez scored on a two-yard run before quarterback Mitch Kellog tossed a pass to Demitri Moreno for the two-point conversion.
The Rebels received some good fortune in closing to within 8-6 with 6:46 left in the first half. Wirthlin took a handoff from Weirick, but fumbled just before crossing the goal line. The ball fell into the end zone, where an alert Jung found the ball before pouncing on it.
"The coaches told us to keep playing until you hear the whistle blow," Jung said. "We work on those type of drills at practice and it's nice to see what you do in practice reflecting in a game.
"I just fell on it and we had the touchdown."
The Guards went for the go-ahead score, but to no avail.
Bell-Jeff Coach Rolando Aguirre said the multiple turnovers cost the Guards.
"We made too many mistakes," Aguirre said. "If we make no mistakes, then it's a different story.
"We had some fumbles. We need confidence and then we'll be OK. The turnovers just took a toll on us. It's fatigue. I commend Flintridge Prep for being in good shape."
Weirick completed 10 of 21 passes for 113 yards and one interception.
Bell-Jeff, which will play its home games at North Hollywood while Burroughs High's Memorial Field continues to undergo major renovations, received 70 yards rushing in 17 carries from Martinez, a running back.
Linebacker Zayd Al-Marayati recovered a fumble for the Rebels, who got an interception from safety Stefan Smith.
Linebacker Michael Gomez had an interception and recovered a fumble for the Guards, who also got an interception from Martinez at defensive back.