What a difference a year makes. Last season, the Flintridge Prep Rebels made a brief stop in Oxnard, while on their way to the CIF Division XIII championship, to pound Santa Clara High, 41-8.
This year, minus several key starters who were lost to graduation, Prep struggled in its home opener against the Saints last Saturday and the outcome was still in doubt with less than a minute to go in the contest.
But, the Prep defense, which always seems to rise to the occasion when the offense doesn't, gave the Rebels the edge they needed and they squeezed by Santa Clara, 12-8, to even their preseason record at 1-1.
Prep hopes to improve its record when the team travels to Birmingham High in Van Nuys on Saturday to play Campbell Hall in a 7 p.m. game.
Running back Wes Ouchi, who saw action in the Prep backfield last season when he was a junior, proved to be the main offensive weapon the Rebels used against the Saints who had trouble moving the ball in the first half.
Ouchi scored the first of his two touchdowns on a three-yard run with 8:11 remaining in the first quarter. Kicker Gary Au's attempt for a extra point was no good as the snap was fumbled by the holder.
With 3:34 remaining in the first half, Ouchi broke loose on a 49-yard run for a TD. Prep went for the two-point conversion, but it failed when Rebels' quarterback Adam Rogers was tackled in the backfield.
Something happened to the teams when they came back out on the field for the second half. Santa Clara, which didn't generate much offense in the first half, all of a sudden came back with a vengeance, but the Prep offense began to stutter.
Rogers was sacked on his own 27-yard line and fumbled the ball over to the Saints with about seven-and-a-half minute left in the third quarter. Some two minutes later, Saints' signal caller Johnny Ruiz took the ball in himself on a quarterback sneak from a yard out. Santa Clara went for the two-point conversion and was successful as Ruiz hit running back David Cardenas with a pass.
The score was now 12-8 in favor of the Rebels, but the Saints had more than a quarter left in which to score another TD and take the lead.
The Prep offense shut down completely, neither Ouchi nor Rogers could get anything going on the ground or in the air. The teams punted the ball back and forth to each other.
However, Prep defenders made key sacks in the fourth quarter to stall the Saints' momentum. Rex Rhew and Matt Tappin sacked Ruiz together and Tappin sacked the Saints' quarterback by himself which caused Santa Clara to punt both times. Late in the game, Brady Thompson sacked Ruiz deep in his own territory. The Saints eventually had to give up the ball and Prep ate up the clock until the game ended.