CARLSBAD — A new season appeared to do the Flintridge Prep football team a lot of good Saturday, but some of the same problems that plagued the Rebels last year resurfaced as the game went on against the Army and Navy Academy in Carlsbad.
Prep saw a 16-point fourth quarter lead cut down completely by the Warriors, who came all the way back for a 32-30 victory in overtime. It made for a long drive home for the Rebels, but their coach Antonio Harrison said they have to leave what happened to them back in Carlsbad.
"We totally beat ourselves today is what it was," Harrison said. "This was a great game, they played really well, but we did beat ourselves.
"We can't take this loss into our next week of practice. We've got to let it go and know we should've beat this team."
It appeared a Flintridge Prep victory was imminent for most of the game, especially after Dylan Colliflower gave the Rebels a commanding 22-8 advantage on a 31-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. Kyle Hamane pushed the lead to 16 on a successful two-point conversion run.
The Rebels defense began to wear down with players cramping up in the final quarter, which forced Harrison to dig deep into his 19-man roster after starting running back and linebacker/safety Stefan Smith came out of the game in the first half with a leg injury.
"A lot of people think because we're up numbers — six or seven guys — that it's a different situation, and it is if everybody's healthy," said Harrison, whose team had to forfeit two games last year when injuries depleted an already-thin roster, "but we lose our starting center and our H-back and now we've got guys playing in positions they're not practicing in. We've got to get used to it."
Army-Navy took advantage, as the Warriors' 6-foot-1, 250 pound fullback Joe Naotola broke a 26-yard touchdown run on fourth-down-and-two and ran for the ensuing two-point try to cut Prep's lead to eight.
The Rebels offense, which started hot behind the running of Kurt Kozacik, who ran for two touchdowns and 186 yards in the first half and 251 total yards in 21 carries in the game, went cold.
Naotola, who finished with 42 rushing yards and two scores in five carries, helped tie the game when he broke a 12-yard touchdown run after Prep was held to a three-and-out, as Mike Luque, who finished with 87 rushing yards and two touchdowns in 11 carries, tied the game at 24 with a two-point run with four minutes left in regulation.
Prep had the first shot at a score from 25 yards out to start overtime and cashed in when quarterback Clayton Weirick hit Kareem Ismail in the back of the end zone with a 12-yard touchdown pass, but the ensuing two-point attempt was held just short by the Warriors defense.
Army-Navy came away with eight points on its overtime possession, as Luque, who scored the Warriors' first touchdown with four minutes left in the opening half, broke a 25-yard sweeping touchdown run on its second play and Naotola pushed back into the end zone for two points and the win.
"They got a big guy at running back [in Naotola]," Harrison said. "In the first half we chopped him down and wore him down. Toward the end we were standing up tackling and he just pushed his way into the end zone."
It was a heartbreaking loss for the Rebels, who took a 16-0 lead in the first quarter on two giant Kozacik runs, the first coming from 78 yards out on their second possession on third-and-one. He broke another 65-yard run on fourth-and-four to give the Rebels a 16-0 lead. Kozacik ran in for the first two-point attempt and Weirick hit Smith with a short play-action pass for the second.
"I told the guys we've got to come out and be the aggressor, we can't wait to have our backs against the wall," Harrison said. "They came out and were the aggressors. Any good team fights back and that's what Army-Navy did and when they started to fight back we weren't as aggressive as we were in the beginning."
Kozacik's second score was set up by a Mike Leslie fumble recovery on a botched Army-Navy handoff at Prep's 28-yard line. It was one of five Army-Navy turnovers, compared to Prep's one on a Kava Aviu interception for the Warriors.
Kyle Law intercepted a tipped Army-Navy pass at Prep's 21 just before halftime. Brian Heintz halted another would-be Army-Navy touchdown drive when he forced a fumble that was jumped on by Augustin Acosta-Ghioladi at the Rebels' 10.
Colliflower had a monster game on defense, as he recovered another fumble just before the end of the first quarter and he forced another one that was recovered by Tucker Chemel at Prep's own 27-yard line that derailed a possible game-winning Warriors drive with 2:01 left in regulation.
The Rebels couldn't drive for the winning score in regulation, as their offensive line had trouble getting Weirick time to pass all game and the drive ended at their own 45 before regulation ended.