Hard-Fought Beach Bowl Sees ELAC Come Up Short
by Cerwin D Haynes
(thumbnail by Brenda de la Cruz)
The East Los Angeles Huskies came into tonight's Beach Bowl matchup looking for their first postseason victory as a member of the National Northern League. On the road once again, -ELAC found themselves in Torrance facing a traditional power in the El Camino College Warriors, the host team for tonight's Beach Bowl. A back-and-forth affair for three quarters, the Warriors were a step ahead during the fourth quarter, putting the game away as East LA was turned away 39-24.
Coming into this one, ELAC knew what their winning recipe would be: look to their defense to short circuit the opponent's offense while the offense rely on opportunism to break a few plays and score just enough to edge out a victory. And at the very start, it looked like the Huskies would do just that: a three-and-out defensive series forced El Camino to punt, and ELAC blocked the ensuing kick. The Warriors would recover the ball but was stopped well short of the first down marker, giving the Huskies the ball at the Warriors' 34-yard line. ELAC would advance deep to the red zone, but a holding call wiped out a TD run and ELAC ultimately had to settle for a 34-yard FG by Christian Reyes.
El Camino, on their next series, was prepared for the defensive pressure. Utilizing read-react plays to mitigate the Huskies' aggressive defense, the Warriors cracked open up holes in the run game. On two short-yardage third-down situations, the Warriors got just enough on the ground to keep the chains moving. Once past midfield, ECC's QB Mehki Jordan completed passes of 9 and 16 yards to advance the Warriors close to the red zone. Stephen Bradford Jr., one of the leading rushers in National Central League, ripped a 14 yard run to give ECC a first and goal at the ELAC 8. After a two-yard run and a timeout, Jordan would loft a back corner endzone pass to 6' 1 WR Dion Moore who leapt over the Huskies' DB for the touchdown catch. The ensuing extra point gave El Camino the 7-3 lead.
ELAC would answer definitively: on their next possession, facing a third-and-1 from their own their own 30, QB Rudy Garcia rolled right, tucked the ball, and took off downfield. 61 yards later, Garcia romped into the endzone to give ELAC the lead again.
The Warriors refused to be deterred: on their next offensive series, El Camino found more success in the short/medium passing game. With first and 10 from the ELAC 12, ECC motioned WR Moore in the backfield. He took the handoff and sprinted 12 yards into the endzone, giving ECC the lead again (ELAC would block the extra point attempt) 13-10.
The Huskies would initially be stalled on their next offensive series and forced to punt, but a roughing the kicker penalty against ECC gave ELAC a fresh set of downs near midfield. The Huskies would take advantage and churn downfield, finding the end zone on a four-yard TD pass from Garcia to WR Cobe Stribling. Extra point gives the Huskies back the lead, 17-13.
But yet again, El Camino answered: three pass completions mixed with and an 8-yard rush found the Warriors near midfield in ELAC territory again. RB Brandyn Jordan would take the next handoff, slip a few would-be tacklers, and sprint 48 yards for the touchdown. El Camino retook the lead, and you had the feeling this game would be back-and-forth all evening.
At the start of the 4th quarter, trailing 26-24, the Huskies defense - being given a short field thanks to the offense being forced to punt out of their own end zone - needed to keep ECC out of the end zone to keep it a one-posession game. ELAC had their chances:
- El Camino elected to go for it on 4-and-10 from their 30 and Jordan decided to fling it into the endzone looking for WR Aaron Magee. CB Daymon Burns was with Magee ont he coverage, but failed to turn his head around to play the ball, running into Magee and drawing the defensive pass interference call to give ECC 1st-and-10 at the ELAC 15.
- The Huskies defense would bear down and force another fourth-down play by the host Warriors, but ECC's Jordan snuck forward two yards to keep the critical drive alive for El Camino.
- Facing 2nd-and-goal from the 1-yard line, ELAC not only forced the Warriors' rusher backwards, but caused a fumble. ECC recovered, and on the next play Jordan found Moore (again) in the back corner of the endzone for another TD pass. The extra point put El Camino up two possessions, 33-24.
The teams would trade interceptions (Damond Callahan had a brilliant pickoff of Mehki Jordan at the Huskies' goal line to keep El Camino from taking a commanding lead), but the Huskies could not find anymore daylight against the Warriors defense. Another short punt gave ECC good field position at the Huskies' 43, and ECC went back to mixing up short runs and passes to grind forward to the ELAC 18. And once again, Warriors' QB Jordan found the Venice HS product Moore for an 18-yard TD pass and ultimately a 39-24 lead. ELAC would get the ball again, but Rudy Garcia was intercepted a second time, ending any chance for a Huskies' comeback.
- Soph QB Rudy Garcia did what he could with his arm and legs: he completed 16-31 passes for 181 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions and led all ELAC rushers with 72 yards and a TD.
- Soph WR Cobe Stribling had himself a nice game, catching five passes for a team-high 93 yards and two touchdowns.
- Soph DB Jeremiah Jackson-Trotter led the defense with 15 tackles - one for loss - with TWO blocked extra point kick attempts.
ELAC will look forward to their first full offseason in two years. Head Coach Bobby Godinez and crew will once again be able to utilize spring practice and a full recruiting regimen.