PALOS VERDES PENINSULA — Simply getting to, and through, Friday afternoon's Prep League finale at Chadwick was, in a way, a moral triumph for a Flintridge Prep football team that was anything but a sure bet to make it this far at the midpoint of the season back in early October.
The material result, however, was a turnover-plagued 46-7 loss to the Dolphins to bring the Rebels' final season record to 1-9, 0-5 in league, with two of those losses due to forfeits made necessary by mass injuries to a team already lacking depth.
"These guys were resilient and we were able to get everybody healthy back for our second league game and we rode league out for the rest of the year. I'm happy for that," said Prep second-year Coach Antonio Harrison, who had to cancel a nonleague meeting with Campbell Hall on Sept. 24 and the Oct. 7 league opener against Webb.
One of the biggest injury losses the Rebels sustained this year was two-way senior standout Chris Wirthlin's knee injury in the season-opening 12-8 win over Bellarmine-Jefferson on Sept. 2 that kept him out until last week's Pasadena Poly game. Wirthlin mostly played defense on Friday, but lined up in the backfield on third and goal with a running game clock winding down in the fourth quarter and punched in a three-yard run for the Rebels' only touchdown of the game as time expired.
"One of the smallest guys on the field out here has the biggest heart and that's Chris Wirthlin," Harrison said. "We limited him on offense because of his knee and we just had him playing 'D', so that drive right there was for him and for these boys to know that we're family."
With its offense struggling — Wirthlin's touchdown snapped a team scoreless streak of 13-plus quarters of play going back to Oct. 22 against Viewpoint — Prep got a key turnover from its defense early in Friday's game when Zayd Al-Marayati recovered a Chadwick fumble on the Rebels' 26-yard line as the Dolphins were driving into the red zone on their opening possession.
But two plays later, the Rebels committed the first of four crippling turnovers of their own in the game when quarterback Clayton Weirick was intercepted at the Prep 40-yard line, leading to a Chadwick scoring drive capped by quarterback Hank Trumbull's 24-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Knox with 6:10 left in the opening quarter. Trumbull, who completed 12 of 16 attempts for 228 yards, had a hand in the first six Dolphins touchdowns, passing for five and rushing for another.
Chadwick led, 14-0, with 9:28 left in the first half when Wirthlin picked off Trumbull and returned it 33 yards to the Dolphins' 33-yard line. But the drive ended in a missed field goal and Chadwick went on to score three more touchdowns inside the final five minutes of the first half to take a 33-0 lead.
Prep lost a fumble on its first possession of the second half just after crossing midfield and, after a Chadwick touchdown, lost another fumble on its next possession.
"No matter how much you game plan, no matter how good your guys are, no team at any level, from Pop Warner to the NFL, with [four] turnovers is going to win a game," Harrison said. "I'm proud for my boys for everything they've been through this year to still be here when they could have simply walked away. The first time I had to forfeit against Campbell Hall, I didn't know what to expect for the rest of the year. Then when I had to forfeit our league opener, we were just making sure we had guys day to day."