In its final non-league contest, Mira Costa used a strong second-half to gain a victory and, more importantly, momentum as the Mustangs travel to take on West Friday at 7 p.m. in the Bay League opener for both teams.
After a low-scoring first half, Mira Costa ran away with a 26-14 win over visiting Newport Harbor, improving the Mustang’s season record at 3-2.
The key to the win was a stellar game by running back Raphael Lawson-Gale, who amassed 334 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. He confused defenders all game gaining 217 yards rushing on 21 carries.
“I’m just overwhelmed,” Lawson-Gale said. “Thank God I got the team I do; none of this is possible without my other running backs Sebastian (Franck-Love) and Brandon (Mills). Because they hit the holes so hard, it opens up so many chances for me.”
The game started slow with a scoreless first quarter before Newport Harbor put the first points on the scoreboard with a 20-yard touchdown run by Tala Teaupa.
Late in the second quarter on a fourth down and six, Mira Costa quarterback Greg Briskin threw a 29-yard pass over the middle to move the ball to the Newport Harbor 10-yard line. The Mustangs eventually settled for a 23-yard field goal by Casey Sublette and went into the locker room at halftime down 7-3.
The Mustangs were forced to overcome injuries as their top two quarterbacks, Khalil McClain and Ryan Sweigart, along with captain and two-way starter Josh Qerbash were all held out of the game. But Briskin, a junior and third string quarterback, filled in admirably stating that “Taking care of assignments and stepping up were keys to winning the game.”
Mira Costa’s first drive of the second half culminated with a three-yard touchdown run by Lawson-Gayle, giving the Mustangs their first lead of the game at 10-7.
On their next possession, the Mustangs again used Lawson-Gale’s speed to slice through the defense, as he had two carries of over 25 yards. The Mustangs padded their lead with a one-yard touchdown by Brandon Mills.
Lawson-Gayle gave credit to his linemen.
“All day just hitting in practice, pushing the sled, they (the linemen) have tremendous hearts,” Lawson-Gayle said. “As big their bodies are, their hearts are twice as big.”
Mira Costa’s defense played with great intensity in the second half, recording two interceptions and a safety that gave the Mustangs a 19-14 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Lawson-Gale scored his second touchdown of the game with a dazzling 69-yard return.
Mira Costa head coach Don Morrow said that his team has had a mantra this season that stresses “fighting for every inch,” something they will need Friday night.
Morrow said West came into the season as the Bay League favorite, but that his team would definitely bring it to them next week.
West is ranked No. 3 in the CIF Northern Division with No. 7 Mira Costa close behind. Palos Verdes is listed in the No. 9 spot.
West (5-0) is coming off a 30-27 win over North Torrance, the fourth-ranked team in the Northwest Division.
Although its non-league schedule has been less demanding that Mira Costa’s, West fields an explosive offense that is averaging 43 points per game.
Running back Barry Thomas is a workhorse, rushing for 705 yards and 14 touchdowns on 104 carries this season. He gained 183 yards and scored three touchdowns against North last Friday.
Quarterback Joey Notch is an exceptional athlete who has passed for more 12 touchdowns and more than 1,000 yards. His favorite targets are tight end Mat Boesen and wide receivers Craig Knaus and Dane Silverlake.
Redondo begins on The Hill
Following a bye week, Redondo (2-3) opens its quest for a Bay League title Friday with a 3 p.m. game at Peninsula.
First year head coach Matt Ballard believes a tough non-league schedule has helped prepare his Sea Hawk squad for a run at the CIF playoffs.
A strong running attack led by Anthony Philyaw will be a key to Redondo’s success.
Peninsula (1-4) has given up an average of just over 31 points per game. The Panther’s lone win came was a 35-7 victory over visiting Beverly Hills.
Peninsula’s offense is led by quarterback Ian Escutia has passed for three touchdowns and ran for another three. His favorite target is Zack Riley while James Nelson spearheads the Panther’s running attack.