All Ball Sports: Mustangs toughen up, Sea Hawks on a run, Bruins have new star

Redondo improved its record to 3-1 with a 38-0 over Paramount last weekend. Photos by Ray Vidal

by Paul Teetor

It happened again. For the second week in a row the Mira Costa football team jumped out to a commanding 14-0 lead over an undefeated opponent in front of a raucous home crowd at Waller Stadium.

Once again, hopes were high that Costa would secure its first victory of the season. That tonight would be the night they turned it around.

But for the second week in a row the Mustangs couldn’t hold onto the lead. They lost to San Juan Hills 28-20 and fell to 0-4 on the season.

But there is a bright spot as Costa prepares for the Bay League season to start in two weeks: the four teams that beat them have a combined 18-2 record on the still young season.

That means Costa has hung tough against a string of very good teams. And it means they will still be able to turn their season around when league play starts and they get a fresh start. Right now only undefeated Palos Verdes (5-0) looks to have a clear edge over the Mustangs among league teams.

Still, no matter how much Mustang fans see the glass as half full after this latest dose of heartbreak, there was no hiding the reality that this was a brutal loss for Costa.

Last week they gave up 42 unanswered points to Damien after going up 14-0 in the first quarter. By the middle of the third quarter everyone knew it was over. 

But this time, after taking a 14-0 lead and holding the lead or at least a tie all game with an outstanding effort, they gave up two late fourth quarter touchdowns within two minutes and saw their lead suddenly evaporate.

For most of the game Costa’s ferocious defense and the passing of junior quarterback Nico De La Cruz controlled the game and kept the home team tied or in the lead.

“I didn’t think that we played particularly well. I just thought the fight was great,” coach Don Morrow said. “We were sloppy in a lot of different things we did, but the fight was good.”

The Stallions caught up quickly, with two touchdowns 66 seconds apart, to tie the game at 14-14. But Nico De Sisto kicked two field goals — a 20-yarder at the close of the first half and a 21-yarder with 8:53 to play — to provide a 20-14 advantage and put some daylight between the two teams. 

In the end, it wasn’t enough.

De La Cruz, who claimed the starting quarterback job as an unknown sophomore last year, was in the middle of all the action Friday night – both good and bad.

On the good side of the ledger, he completed 22 of 42 throws for 279 yards and touchdowns to Luke Meeker and the always reliable Reese Leonard, who had six catches for 113 yards. Charlie O’Connor chipped in with four catches for 68 yards.

But De La Cruz also threw three interceptions. One of them set up San Juan Hills’ second touchdown and the last one killed Costa’s chances for a last gasp comeback.

He responded like a true leader.

“Today we finally proved ourselves on both sides of the ball, except for just bad play by me,” he said. “I take full responsibility for this loss. It’s not on the team, it’s on me.”

The other factor that has been plaguing Costa this year: lack of a ground game to take some pressure off De La Cruz to generate all the offense. Last year they relied on workhorse senior running back Matthew Kraskouskas, and he gave the Mustangs a fierce, pound-and-ground game all season long.

This year, so far, no one has stepped up to fill the void left by Kraskouskas. Freshman A. J. McBean, however, showed some promise on the ground in the second half and figures to get more of a chance as the season moves along.  

The game opened with great promise for the Mustangs. They marched 80 yards — the key play was a 40-yard throw to Leonard. Then De La Cruz found Meeker in the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown with 1:09 to go in the first quarter. The defense forced a three-and-out, and the Mustangs added to their lead with a 92-yard drive climaxed with a 31-yard De La Cruz pass to Leonard.

But San Juan Hills soon tied it at 14-14. 

De Sisto’s two field goals gave the Mustangs a six-point cushion, but it wasn’t enough as San Juan Hills went up 28-20. Trying to mount a furious comeback, De La Cruz was scrambling to avoid a sack and threw an interception that ended Costa’s hopes.

Mira Costa has one more non-league game before league play starts in two weeks –and that is against Villa Park, which, incredibly, is also undefeated at 4-0. Maybe next week will be the week they finally knock off an undefeated team.  

After jumping out to a 14 point lead, the Mustangs fell to 0-4 against San Juan Hills.

Redondo Bounces Back Big-Time

Fresh off a one-point loss to Huntington Beach, Redondo bounced back with a vengeance Friday night and destroyed host Paramount by a score of 38-0. The win pushed the Sea Hawks to 3-1 on the season.

As the score attests, Redondo’s defense was dominant. Along with a fierce running game, the Sea Hawks controlled the game from start to finish.

Coach Keith Ellison said it was important to re-establish Redondo’s winning groove following the tough loss to Huntington Beach.

“This week was just all about trying to get back on the winning track and get our boys more confident in what we’re doing,” Ellison said. “We had a really hard loss last week so it was nice to come out here and perform.”

The Sea Hawks running game was led by committee rather than any one back. Senior running back Roman Broughton led the early Sea Hawks offense with 71 rushing yards and a touchdown. Junior running back Ethan Maleman, and senior Colin Kelly added 72 and 69 yards, respectively, to contribute to an offense that finished with 212 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

Junior quarterback Nicholas London was highly efficient, connecting on six of his seven passes with one touchdown, a 15-yard pass to Charlie Stober.

“There’s going to be days we’re going to need him to throw the ball 40 times, but today wasn’t that day,” Ellison said about London. “But for him to get us into our formations, get us aligned, and have us execute, he’s getting better every week.”

The scoring started late in the first quarter when Broughton rushed the ball seven times on the Sea Hawks’ first drive. He was unstoppable, and his 1-yard score finished off a 66-yard scoring drive for the Sea Hawks.

Redondo went on to score on every possession in the first half, putting them ahead 28-0 at halftime.

“We have a lot of guys who can carry the ball and run for us,” Ellison said. “We’re just trying to establish something with our running backs and mainly get the offensive line in rhythm.”

London’s 15-yard connection with Stober made it 35-0 for the Sea Hawks while senior kicker Nicolas McGee finished the scoring in the fourth quarter with a 40-yard field goal.

Next week, Redondo will host West Torrance, its last game before starting league play.

UCLA has a worthy successor to DTR at quarterback

Move over, Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams.

Step aside, Super Bowl champion Matthew Stafford.

Steer clear, young hot shot Justin Herbert.

There is a brand-new contender for the unofficial title of the best quarterback in Los Angeles.

His name is Dante Moore, he’s 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds with a bazooka for an arm, and he’s just 18 years old.

He was so good as a high school player in Detroit, Michigan that he was ranked as the number one player coming out of high school before enrolling at UCLA at the last minute and leaving Oregon in the lurch.

He is the highest rated recruit ever to play at UCLA – a status that covers a lot of ground when you consider all the stars that have played there over the years, from Gary Beban back in the day to Manhattan Beach’s own Josh Rosen not so long ago.

And now, in just three college games, he has proven he is the real deal. He’s so good he has impressed everyone with his stellar play – except, apparently, UCLA Head Coach Chip Kelly.

Even after leading UCLA to a 59-7 rout of North Carolina Central and a perfect 3-0 record, Kelly refused to name Moore as his starting quarterback.

Even though Moore threw a 67-yard touchdown pass to Kam Brown on the Bruins first play from scrimmage, and even though he went 8-of-12 for 182 yards and two touchdowns before coming out with a28-0 lead, Kelly still declined to name him as the starter going forward.

Instead, he left it hanging whether Moore, Ethan Garbers, who served the last three years as the backup to Dorian Thompson-Robinson, or junior transfer Collin Schlee would be the starter when UCLA opens league play this week against 12th ranked Utah, the two-time defending PAC-12 champion.

“I thought Dante did a really good job, again. He’s extremely poised. He does a great job throwing the call and giving guys catchable balls when there’s territory there,” Kelly said after the game.

“I think Colin’s athleticism has shown in both games that he has played in,” Kelly continued. “We’ve been up by so much that we really haven’t got an opportunity to let him throw very often.”

Finally, Kelly praised Garbers, whom he named the starter before the Bruins first game but has played little since then.

“Garbs did a really nice job when he was in there, and Ethan has played a lot of football for us,” Kelly said. “We are really comfortable with Ethan, and when he runs our offense, I think that we do a really good job. We click.”

So what’s really going on here? Why does Kelly refuse to admit the obvious: Moore is far and away the most talented quarterback the Bruins have, that he has backed up and at times even exceeded all the hype surrounding him, and that he should be named the full-time starter before PAC 12 play starts?

One theory is that Kelly doesn’t want the kid to develop into a diva, but so far he has shown no signs of that all-too-common ailment. Indeed, he came in early in January to help get acclimated to the Bruins program and so far has said all the right things. 

Another theory is that he feels indebted to Garbers for three years backing up Dorian Thompson-Robinson, and doesn’t want to kill Garber’s spirit should he be called on.

But while Garbers is surely disappointed to not be starting after the first game, he’s a smart kid who recognizes that Moore is a superior talent, a sure-fire NFL player should he stay healthy.

And speaking of NFL players, Bruins fans can be proud that DTR, who was drafted by Cleveland in the fourth round amid rumors they would try to convert him into a defensive back or wide receiver, has made the Browns 53-man roster as the backup to starting quarterback DeShaun Watson.

Looks like that fifth year at UCLA – and his insistence that he is a quarterback and nothing else — paid off.

Prediction: Moore will be named the full-time starter before PAC-12 play starts and will end up a better pro prospect than USC quarterback Caleb Williams. Williams is the better runner but Moore is taller and the better passer, and the NFL is a passing league.

Now if Chip Kelly will just get on board the train can leave the station,

All aboard.

Contact: Follow: @paulteetor. ER  


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