Flintridge Prep football loses heartbreaker in season opener

LOS ANGELES — Stefan Smith did all he could with the ball for the Flintridge Prep football team Friday night.

The standout running back had 394 yards of total offense and found the end zone five times to give the Rebels a chance at picking up a victory.

Unfortunately for Flintridge Prep, Smith’s effort wasn’t enough in a 42-41 loss against Carlsbad Army-Navy in a season-opening nonleague game for both teams at Occidental College.

“It’s tough because everybody gave it there all,” said Smith, a reigning All-Area first-team pick who finished with 304 yards rushing in 19 carries. “This was a game that we wanted and it came down to a few plays here and there.

“We just needed to make one more play to be able to finish it up.”

After the Warriors took a 42-35 lead with 1:25 left in the fourth quarter, Flintridge Prep quarterback Andrew Tsangeos lofted a short pass to Smith, who caught the ball and broke free for a 73-yard touchdown to pull the Rebels to within 42-41 with 57 seconds remaining.

Flintridge Prep Coach Antonio Harrison called timeout and opted for the Rebels to go for the two-point conversion. However, Flintridge Prep’s Elliot Witter was stopped at the one-yard line on a run.

“I’m not a conservative coach,” said Harrison, the reigning All-Area Coach of the Year who guided the Rebels to an appearance in the second round of the playoffs last season. “No matter what, we were going to go for it.

“The play was designed for Elliot. We just didn’t get it past the goal line.”

It also marked the second close defeat for the Rebels against the Warriors. Flintridge Prep held a 24-8 lead in the fourth quarter in last season’s matchup, but couldn’t conquer the Warriors in a 32-20 overtime road defeat.

Flintridge Prep, ranked No. 9 in the first CIF Southern Section Northeast Division poll, held a seemingly comfortable 29-10 halftime lead Friday before the Warriors mounted their huge comeback on a warm evening.

Smith, who registered 1,480 rushing and 228 receiving yards and 26 offensive touchdowns last year, gave the Rebels a 6-0 lead on a six-yard run with 4:07 left in the first quarter.

On the ensuing possession, Army-Navy quarterback Chris Salisbury tossed a 41-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kava Aviu to make it 7-6 less than a minute later.

After Flintridge Prep linebacker Brian Heintz recovered a fumble at the Army-Navy 44-yard line, Smith then scored on a 23-yard run to make it 14-7 with 10:36 left in the second quarter.

A 27-yard field goal by Adam Labi brought Army-Navy to within 14-10 with 6:15 remaining in the first half. Smith then extended the Rebels’ advantage to 22-10 on a 65-yard touchdown run down the sideline with 5:08 to go.

Witter closed out the first-half scoring with a nine-yard run to give the Rebels a 29-10 lead with 1:34 to play in the first half.

Smith finished with 251 first-half rushing yards.

The Warriors began their comeback immediately in the second half, beginning with a 42-yard touchdown pass from Salisbury to wide receiver Leelye Kebede just 23 seconds into the third quarter to make it 29-17.

Smith then scored on a one-yard run to extend Flintridge Prep’s lead to 35-17 with 7:36 to play in the third quarter.

Army-Navy then scored a pair of touchdowns in the final six minutes of the third quarter. A 66-yard touchdown pass from Salisbury (10 for 13 for 277 yards) to Tim Mack made it 35-23 with 5:24 to go. The Warriors then got a one-yard touchdown run from running back Korey Warren as time expired in the quarter to bring the Warriors to within 35-29.

Army-Navy knotted it at 35 with 8:33 to play in the fourth quarter on an eight-yard run by Mack. Mack gave the Warriors a 42-35 lead with 1:25 remaining before the Warriors fended off the Rebels.

“It’s a hard loss,” said Harrison, whose team will next face Meadows (Nev.) in a nonleague road contest at 7 p.m. Sept. 7. “Better to get it out of the way now than later.”

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