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La Habra Rallies to Edge Sonora


LA HABRA — A rivalry as intense as Sonora and La Habra doesn't need outside forces to fuel the competitive fires.

But when some Highlander players and coaches came on campus for a Friday morning meeting, the school's blue-and-white initials--which lay in the north end of the stadium--had been painted yellow.

Whether this was inspired Raider chicanery is debatable. No matter, La Habra needed every bit of inspiration to squeeze past Sonora, 34-33, in front about 6,000 at La Habra.

Down, 33-14, entering the fourth quarter, the Highlanders (7-1, 2-1) rallied on three touchdown passes by quarterback Robert Morales, who had 202 yards passing.

The last one came with 1:13 to play, as Morales delivered a 27-yard strike to Nick Armstrong for the winning score. It was Armstrong's sixth catch of the game, for 144 yards.

"Their defense was playing deep and looking for the long one," Armstrong said amid his jubilant teammates. "Robert threw the ball just beyond the defender. I went up, the ball hit my hands and stuck."

"Even when we were down big in the fourth quarter we always believed we could come back," Morales said, "although I can't remember the last time we scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter."

There were many heroes on both sides. Jesse Giovannetti ran for 109 yards and scored a touchdown for La Habra. Raider running back Justin Binggeli had 110 yards and a touchdown, quarterback Clint Patton passed for 104 yards and two touchdowns, and kicker Chris Rico had two field goals, including a 53-yarder just before halftime.

La Habra finished with 365 total yards, and Sonora had 383 total yards.

After what might have been the most bitter defeat this season, Sonora Coach Mark Takkinen tried to stay upbeat.

"A very tough loss," said Takkinen, whose team is 2-7, 1-2. "But this may have been the first time this year we played as a team. The kids played hard and trusted one another out there.

"That may be more important than winning."

There was more at stake than the annual city championship between the teams, which Sonora had won the past two years (after breaking a La Habra 15-game winning streak).

With the Freeway League race again wide open (four teams began the night 1-1 in league play), Friday's games could bring the playoff picture into focus.

La Habra has doubled last year's win total. Sonora needs a miracle to get back into the playoff race.

"I wouldn't say this was our biggest win," Highlander Coach Rick Milhizer said, "but it would have been a very depressed team if we had lost, especially after last week's [loss] to Buena Park."

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