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Hart Wings It in Tie With Los Alamitos

Football: A last-second, 63-yard pass play gives the No. 8 Indians a 21-21 tie after the No. 2 Griffins rally for lead with 28 seconds to play.

September 14, 2002|PETER YOON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's not often Coach Mike Herrington will let a penalty slide, especially one that could have cost his Newhall Hart High football team a victory.

But when his players stormed the field and were flagged for excessive celebration Friday night in their season opener against Los Alamitos, ranked No. 2 in The Times' preseason rankings, Herrington simply smiled with the rest of them and changed the next play.

Hart receiver Cody Kase had just hauled in a desperation pass from Sean Norton for a touchdown to pull Hart within one as time expired. What would have been a two-point attempt to win the game turned into a 35-yard extra point attempt. Will Simons drilled the kick through the uprights, ending the game in a 21-21 tie at Veterans Stadium in Long Beach.

Herrington said Hart, ranked No. 8, would have gone for two had the 15-yard penalty not been assessed.

"We already had the play called," Herrington said. "But you can't fault the kids. We don't really go over that in practice. It's not something we work on, telling players not to rush the field if we score on the last play of the game and still need the extra point."

The desperation play at the end, called Big Ben, is something they work on, however. Norton, making his Hart debut, lofted the ball from his own 37. The ball bounced off two defenders and Kase, who didn't break stride, grabbed it and raced in for a 63-yard score.

"It was like a dream," Kase said. "I was like 'Oh my God.' "

Moments earlier, the game appeared to be a nightmare in the making for Hart. The Indians had taken a 14-13 lead with 3:43 to play, but Los Alamitos (0-1) drove 80 yards in 11 plays, capped by a one-yard touchdown run by Randy Estes that gave the Griffins a 19-14 lead with 28 seconds remaining.

A two-point conversion pass from Justin Elway to Brandon Tripp gave Los Alamitos its 21-14 lead.

Overtime was not an option because Herrington had vetoed an extra period when referees asked him before the game.

"I don't want to do that in a meaningless game," Herrington said. "We have a long way to go in the season and this is the first game. We don't need our guys to go through that. To us, tying a game like this is a win."

Norton, who follows a long line of standout Hart quarterbacks, completed 17 of 28 passes for 245 yards and two touchdowns. Both came in the fourth quarter.

Los Alamitos came up with several big plays on offense but had trouble capitalizing when it got close. Twice in the first half, the Griffins were inside the Hart 30, but all they got out of those possessions was a 25-yard field goal by Kevin Gamarnik with 24 seconds left in the half for a 10-0 lead.

Ryan Bagley led Los Alamitos with 109 yards in 22 carries and the Griffin defense dominated most of the game until the final moments, holding Hart to 74 yards in the first half.

"I'm happy with the way we played," Los Alamitos Coach John Barnes said. "I think we're going to be a decent football team. We pretty much shut them out most of the game and they got one at the end."

The tie extends Hart's unbeaten streak to 24 games.

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