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Los Alamitos Isn't All Tied Up

After teams played to a thrilling draw last season, No.1-ranked Griffins beat No.3 Newhall Hart, 20-17, on a late field goal.

September 13, 2003|Eric Sondheimer | Times Staff Writer

Three times Friday night, Los Alamitos kicker Brooks Rossman missed on long field goal attempts. But his confidence never wavered and, with the pressure on, he made a 26-yarder with 45 seconds left to give the Griffins a 20-17 victory over Newhall Hart at College of the Canyons.

Los Alamitos, 2-0 and ranked No. 1 by The Times, was not about to settle for a tie, not after the bitter memories of last season when the two teams tied, 21-21, after a desperation pass was deflected in the game's final seconds.

This time, Hart quarterback Sean Norton was not available for a miracle comeback. Norton was stuck on the sideline in street clothes for the entire second half after suffering a rib injury that could force him to miss a minimum three weeks depending on the outcome of X-rays.

No. 3 Hart turned to unsung tailback Dan Howell, a bruising 6-foot-2, 200-pound senior who rushed for 165 yards in 25 carries and scored two touchdowns.

"I tried to send a message this new tailback is going to give some heat," he said. "You have to let them know there's something to fear."

Without Norton in the second half, Hart (0-1) abandoned its four-receiver attack and switched to a double-wing offense that featured two tight ends. Backup quarterback Robbie Moore, the brother of injured UCLA quarterback Matt Moore, directed the Indians to their only score of the second half, a 25-yard field goal by Kevin Ciccone with 9:24 left that tied the score at 17.

"When they went to that funky [offense], I knew they were waving the [white] flag," Los Alamitos Coach John Barnes said.

But the Griffins struggled themselves on offense, failing to consistently move the ball because of a disciplined Hart defense that was led by linebacker Brian Elledge. Los Alamitos needed one final drive to win, and junior quarterback Jimmy Barnes, the coach's son, delivered.

Taking over on the Los Alamitos 45 with 6:36 remaining, Barnes completed clutch passes of seven yards to Jeremy Childs and 16 yards to Bryan Gordon, paving the way for Rossman, a transfer from San Diego Torrey Pines. Rossman earlier made a 38-yard field goal but missed from 41, 52 and 48 yards.

Los Alamitos has aspirations of winning a national championship, and its top player showed championship form.

Safety Randy Estes returned an interception 23 yards for a touchdown on the opening play of the game, recovered a fumble and forced another fumble. In all, Los Alamitos intercepted three passes.

"To win a national championship, you have to win 14 [games], but De La Salle has to get beat and that's harder than winning 14," Barnes said.

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