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Foothill Defeats Tustin to Start Mazzotta Era

PREP EXTRA / Orange County High School Football

Prep football: Champion runs for 69-yard touchdown on second play of game as Knights surprise Tillers, 35-15.

September 12, 1998|PAUL McLEOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The biggest fear for Casey Mazzotta, who took over as coach at Foothill in late July, was that he would try to cram too much into too little time before the season opener.

So, the son of a coach borrowed bits from his past, including stints as a wide receiver at Tustin High, Cerritos College and Brigham Young, and he sent the Knights out Friday to see what would happen against sixth-ranked Tustin.

Not bad for his first night's work. Foothill, using some impressive multiple sets and executing a balanced game plan, dominated from the opening kickoff and won, 35-15, in front of about 2,500 at Tustin High.

Foothill used draw plays, timing passes and inside screens to keep the Tillers, who advanced to last season's Southern Section Division V playoff final, off-balance. And every now and then, senior quarterback Robert Koster, a holdover from the Tom Meiss era, burned the Tustin secondary with deep passes. Koster completed 10 of 14 for 164 yards and three touchdowns. He also had a two-point conversion.

Foothill struck for a score on the second play of the season, on a 69-yard draw play by halfback Skyler Champion, who rushed nine times for 109 yards and two touchdowns. His second score, a six-yard burst with 4 minutes 58 seconds left in the first quarter, gave the Knights a 13-0 lead.

It was a refreshing way to welcome the new coach, who began nearly two months after Meiss resigned to become the quarterback coach at Chapman.

"I told the team that everything would change, that we'd have a whole new game plan," said Mazzotta, son of Cerritos College Coach Frank Mazzotta. "But a lot of it is a major combination from everyone I have played for. It's a blend of all the systems."

Two Tiller quarterbacks attempted a total of seven passes and completed none.

"We just weren't mentally prepared to play this game," Tustin running back/linebacker James Sargent said. Sargent finished with 45 yards rushing in nine carries.

Tustin's leading rusher was Branden Malcom, a junior who carried 17 times for 101 yards and scored the Tillers' first touchdown at the 5:59 mark of the second quarter. His two-point conversion run made it 13-8 in favor of Foothill.

Koster's 29-yard touchdown toss to Darren Crume and a two-point toss to Eric Perugini two minutes before halftime gave Foothill some breathing room. Crume had three receptions for 133 yards and two scores.

Tustin's only highlight came on the opening kickoff of the second half, when Isaac Jones returned it 90 yards for a touchdown.

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