Saddleback High School's football team made the best of an evening of frustrated offenses and dueling defenses in La Habra Stadium Friday to emerge with a 24-8 victory over La Habra.
Don't be fooled by the score in Saddleback's third victory of the season. This was more like a 9-0 game masquerading as a higher-scoring event. Until the fourth quarter, only nine points graced the scoreboard.
Two second-quarter foul-ups in the Highlander punting game produced the only points of the first three quarters. A high snap to La Habra punter Gary Mixon led to a deflection by the Roadrunners (3-0). Saddleback's Nate Primous fell on the ball at the nine-yard line with 5:00 left in the second quarter.
One play later, Danny Ontiveros, the game's leading receiver with 5 catches for 56 yards, caught a 14-yard pass from Sean Therien to score. La Habra (1-1) blocked the kick.
The next series ended in something like a bad deja vu for Mixon as the punt snap sailed over his head. Saddleback snapped up the ball and accepted some more irresistible field position at the Highlander 17.
When the La Habra defense foiled the Roadrunner schemes for three plays, Saddleback settled for a 25-yard field goal by Brian Hoialmen and the 9-0 lead.
"I felt a lot better when we got the field goal because then I knew they'd have to score twice," Saddleback Coach Jerry Witte said.
With a pair of stubborn defenses like these, the team that got ahead first held a hefty advantage.
A lot of the repressed scoring hopes of the first three quarters found an outlet in the last. The Roadrunners drove 35 yards to the Highlander six, where Therien tossed three incomplete passes and Hoialmen was waved in to do honors with a 23-yard field goal.
The Roadrunner defense stripped Highlander quarterback Matt Shackelford of the ball at his own 23 with eight minutes to go and Tafea Tafea recovered. Primous scored on an eight-yard run five plays later for an 18-0 lead.
La Habra finally threatened after Jaime Delgadillo intercepted a Therien pass at the Roadrunner 33. But Shackelford gave up his third interception of the night, and the recipient, Therien, cut to the right sideline and fled 90 yards for a touchdown.
The Highlanders put together a 41-yard drive with less than a minute to play, capped by a 26-yard scoring pass from Shackelford to John Robertson. When Kevin Capps caught the conversion pass, the Highlanders had nailed the Roadrunner defense for the most points allowed of their season. Each of their previous opponents managed just six points.
Saddleback had only 122 yards of offense. Therien completed 8 of 18 passes for 77 yards and Primous was the top rusher with just 38 yards in 11 carries.