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Keeling's Improv Act Is a Winner for La Habra


Mike Keeling was supposed to run, he wanted to run, but a big defensive lineman stood in his way. So he passed.

His off-balance throw with 1:02 left to play somehow wobbled its way to Mike Koontz in the back of the end zone for a touchdown, giving La Habra a 20-16 Freeway League victory over Troy Friday night at Fullerton High.

The play, designed as a bootleg, fell apart when Troy's defense penetrated and cut off Keeling's path to the end zone. He spotted a white jersey and threw it up for grabs.

"I didn't know who it was, I just threw to the first guy I saw," said Keeling, who completed 13 of 24 passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns. "There was a big defensive end in my face."

The play capped a thrilling fourth quarter in which Troy overcame a 13-0 deficit, then saw its lead evaporate in the waning moments.

The Warriors (5-3, 1-2) led, 16-13, after Ryan Welch caught a Jordan Oliver pass over the middle and outran La Habra defenders for a 65-yard touchdown with 7:01 left to play.

La Habra began its next drive at its 33-yard line and took 11 plays to score.

A key play came on third and 11 from the Fullerton 41. Keeling was scrambling and it appeared he would be sacked, but just before his knee touched the ground, he lateraled to running back Brent West, who picked up 10 yards.

Keeling dove over the top on the next play for a first down to keep the drive alive.

"That drive was a bone-breaker," Keeling said. "My lips were twitching and everything. I've been in a comeback drive before, but I've never led one."

La Habra's defense deserves much of the credit. It limited a Troy team averaging 34.7 points to just 203 yards in total offense, 105 on the ground, and forced four turnovers.

"It was a quality effort by our team," La Habra Coach Frank Mazzotta said. "With Troy, you've got to stop the run and we have some pretty good defensive kids."

The key play of the first half came after La Habra scored to take a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter.

The Highlanders lined up for the ensuing kickoff in regular formation, but squibbed the kick to a vacant part of the field.

Pascual Alvarez recovered for La Habra at the Troy 24. Two plays later, Keeling scrambled around the right side for a 12-yard touchdown run and a 13-0 Highlander lead.

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