by Dan Albano
Photo credit: Mike Ortiz
NORWALK — Los Alamitos and Servite each wanted to keep building their early-season momentum in hopes of bigger things to come.
Servite finished the job on Friday.
The Friars forced an incompletion on a pass into the end zone on the final play to secure a 28-24 victory at Cerritos College supplying further proof that they are much improved under first-year coach Chris Reinert.
Last season, Los Alamitos defeated Servite 47-14, helping send the Friars to a 1-9 record, the worst in school history.
But Servite, ranked 10th in Orange County and 49th in California by Calpreps, will take a 3-1 record into its bye next week before playing at former Angelus League rival St. Paul on Friday, Sept. 22.
“Tonight is a great step in the right direction,” Reinert said, “but this team has high aspirations. We’ll do what we can to get there.”
“(It’s a) different year, different team,” the coach added. “We expected to win the game. That’s where we’re at. We have a very talented group. We have a very hard-working group. The brotherhood bond is real. The leadership on the team is real, and they’re doing everything we’re asking them to do.”
Los Alamitos (3-1), ranked third in Orange County and eighth in the state by Calpreps, plays at No. 4 Mission Viejo next week in a public school showdown.
The Griffins attempted a fourth-and-15 pass from the Servite 24-yard line on the final play. They moved swiftly down the field in the final minute, attempting two passes from the 19 and two from the 24 after a penalty.
The dramatic finish made a 2-yard touchdown run on third-and-1 by running back Quaid Carr with 44 seconds left in the fourth the go-ahead score in a wild final period.
“It was all defense,” Carr said. “That last drive, the defense went out there and really showed who they are.”
“I’m just so happy for my team right now,” he added. “We got hyped in the locker room, then we got hyped in the bus. I’m just so proud of my teammates. … After last year, we had to come and get revenge.”
Carr capped a 74-yard scoring drive sparked by a tackle-busting reception by wide receiver Ethan Naudin that moved Servite to the Griffins 24. Later in the drive, wide receiver Quinn Rosenkranz drew a pass interference flag on the end zone on fourth-and-7 from the 21, giving the Friars hope with 1:16 left.
Los Alamitos scored 17 unanswered points to take its first lead at 17-14 near the middle of the fourth quarter. Oklahoma committed tight end Davon Mitchell put the Griffins up with a 25-yard TD reception from Alonzo Esparza with about seven minutes left in the fourth.
The lead then flipped three times in the final four minutes.
Carr scored his first touchdown on a 1-yard run to give Servite a 21-17 advantage with 3:32 remaining. The junior set up the score with a 48-yard burst to the Los Alamitos 6.
The Griffins took their final lead at 24-21 on a 72-yard TD run by sophomore running back Lenny Ibarra with 3:12 left. He rushed for all of his 171 yards in the second half.
Ibarra entered the game with 37 yards on 10 carries but emerged after Anthony League — the Griffins’ leading rusher — left with a lower leg injury.
Servite quickly took a 7-0 lead as Devan Parker returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. The sophomore also returned the opening kickoff for a TD in the Friars’ season-opening 57-0 victory against Silverado at Cerritos College.
Late in the first quarter, Servite’s defense collected its second turnover, and this time, the Friars capitalized.
One play after an interception and return by sophomore safety Saxon Churchwell, quarterback Leo Hannan threw a 20-yard touchdown over the middle to Rosenkranz as Servite opened a 14-0 lead on the final play of the opening quarter.
Los Alamitos turned to its ground attack in the second quarter, and chewed up just over seven minutes before a 25-yard field goal by Benji Gamamik with 4:53 left in the half.
Servite showered its defense with praise coming off the field because it limited the Griffins to three points after the Sunset League juggernaut had first-and-goal at the 6. The Friars stuffed run by sophomore lineman Manoah Faupusa, a 6-foot-2, 320-pound weapon on goal-line plays.
“That was a really big play,” Reinert said.
Faupusa found the end zone early in the second half. He scored on a 1-yard run after Ibarra broke a 34-yard run to the Friars 1-yard line. Los Alamitos covered 80 yards to trim the Servite lead to 14-10.
Servite tried to respond with a 37-yard field goal to open the fourth quarter but missed its second attempt of the game.
Sophomore linebacker Brando Mosqueda forced an early fumble for Servite’s defense.
Sophomore Carson Clark paced Los Alamitos’ offense with 10 catches for 101 yards. Mitchell added right receptions for 91 yards.
The Griffins outgained Servite 493-294 but the Friars forced two turnovers and committed less penalties.
Before the game, Los Alamitos coach Ray Fenton called Servite a “real test” and said the Griffins weren’t looking ahead to Mission Viejo.
“Who looks past Servite?” he said. “Nobody.”
That’s certainly the case after Friday.