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Los Alamitos Wins Despite Losing Big Lead, 30-27

November 28, 1987|SCOTT JONES

Los Alamitos Coach John Barnes had an uneasy feeling about the Griffins' 24-7 halftime lead Friday against Villa Park. He had every reason to be concerned, as his team gave up 20 unanswered second-half points, forcing the Griffins to come from behind to win, 30-27, in a Southern Conference quarterfinal playoff game.

The Griffins' Eric Lange kicked field goals of 20 and 28 yards in the last three minutes to erase a 27-24 deficit and allow Los Alamitos (11-1) to advance to the semifinals next week against Mission Viejo.

The Griffins also got some help along the way. After Lange tied the score, 27-27, with 2:46 left, Villa Park (8-4) got the ball at its 13-yard line. After two incomplete passes by quarterback Rob Davey, and a two-yard gain by running back John Genova, Spartan Coach Pat Mahoney sent in Mike Noble to punt. Noble took the snap at his 10, started to run but was stopped short of the first down, giving Los Alamitos the ball in excellent field position.

"I gave Mike the option to run if it was there. Obviously it wasn't," Mahoney said.

With the ball at the Spartan 17, the Griffins ran three plays, and Lange came in to kick the game-winner with 52 seconds left.

Los Alamitos built its 24-7 halftime lead on two touchdown passes by Todd Gragnano. The first, a three-yard strike to Tim Wynn, was followed by an 85-yard bomb to John Cisneros. Running back Frank Beckton also scored on a 60-yard run.

Lange added a 38-yard field goal late in the half.

"The points came too easy," said Barnes.

The Spartans turned two turnovers into scores in the third quarter. Davey passed to Genova for a three-yard touchdown, followed by a 19-yard completion to Doug Byrnes to close Los Alamitos' lead to 24-20.

Early in the fourth quarter, Davey found Genova again for a seven-yard scoring pass to give the Spartans a 27-24 lead with 8:59 to play.

Los Alamitos, who came from behind in last week's 32-16 victory over Lynwood, then drove 75 yards in 15 plays to set up Lange's 20-yard field goal to tie the score.

"When you get to this stage of the playoffs, you'll take a win any way you can get it. We lost momentum in the third quarter but managed to find it at the end, when we needed it," Barnes said.

With the win, Los Alamitos advances to its first semifinal since 1977, when it lost to Villa Park, 21-6.

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