VALLEY VILLAGE — When all was said and done, despite his Flintridge Prep football team having continued its winless start to the season, first-year Coach Antonio Harrison was hardly breathing fire or ranting and raving.
In fact, following his team's 33-14 nonleague loss to host Campbell Hall on Friday afternoon, Harrison was pleased. Perhaps more accurately, he was pleased with the effort he got from the players left on the field.
"It's a different generation nowadays," Harrison said. "I'm not doubting anybody's injuries, but when we've got four or five guys coming out and not coming back in, it's hard to do anything.
"That's why I'm not mad at my players [who were in there at the end]."
Played amid sweltering heat upon Campbell Hall's field turf field, the Vikings (3-0) didn't seem to be all that affected by the temperature, but the Rebels (0-3) were quite the opposite, as no fewer than three Flintridge Prep players spent the second half with their shoulder pads and helmets off, sitting in the shade trying to rehydrate.
Eric Kazangian was one who left the game due to cramps, but he returned and was easily the biggest highlight for the Rebels.
The reigning All-Area selection recovered a fumble to set up Prep's first score and finished the game with 100 yards in nine carries.
"Eric's our go-to guy," Harrison said. "He's the heart and soul of our team."
Kazangian began Prep's initial second-half drive with carries of 35 and 23 yards to ignite the Rebels, who were down 26-7 after the intermission. Aided by a huge pass interference call against the Vikings on a third-down play, the Rebels marched on and culminated the drive with a 23-yard scoring hookup from quarterback Kyle McDonald to Daniel Jung.
The touchdown seemed to breathe life into the Rebels, who would get the ball back after a long Campbell Hall drive stalled when David Russell recovered another Vikings fumble.
But a three-and-out on the ensuing possession was followed by a backbreaking, 11-play, 56-yard scoring drive by the Vikings that chewed up 5:31 of clock and put the score to 33-14. The score took even longer in real time after Vikings receiver Josh Ross apparently injured his shoulder and was taken away by paramedics, resulting in roughly a 25-minute delay.
Having watched first-half leads dissipate in each of his team's first two games, the equally played second half on Friday was of some solace to Harrison.
"It's the first game we've had where the second half was better than the first half," Harrison said.
But for all intents and purposes, the game was decided in the opening half by fundamentals and, perhaps, one big penalty.
Down 13-7, the Rebels looked to have tied the game when McDonald, who completed eight of 13 passes for 56 yards in relief of starter Jordan Whaley, hit Kory Hamane on a slant for a nine-yard touchdown. But the refs called the wide-open Hamane for offensive pass interference. Three plays later, the Rebels missed a field-goal attempt.
"It stole it away," said Harrison of what the call did to the Rebels' momentum before adding that he vehemently disagreed with the call. "He goes into the end zone without touching anybody."
In the first quarter, Whaley, who injured his elbow and couldn't continue at quarterback but kept playing at linebacker and running back, hit Jared Norsworthy on an 18-yard scoring pass the play after Kazangian's fumble recovery. The score tied the game at 1:39 of the first, but nine seconds later, the Vikings were back on top after Prep's gamble of a surprise onside kick resulted in a 48-yard kickoff return for a score.
Aside from that, however, the Vikings did their damage in the air, as quarterback RJ Gordon threw for four touchdowns and 332 yards on 23 of 34 passing. Much of the calamity came on screens, with the Rebels defense struggling to tackle Campbell Hall receivers.
In contrast, Prep rarely had success on offense with three starting offensive lineman out — two coming into the game injured, according to Harrison, and one leaving during the first half. In all, Whaley and McDonald were sacked 11 times and the offense totaled but 153 yards.
"We're trying to instill basic fundamentals and a work ethic in these kids," said Harrison, whose team hosts Malibu next week. "We do have to get back to basics, but the first thing I need is effort and I think I got that from them today."