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KYUSUNG GONG , STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
La Habra's Eric Barriere has been a big factor in the Highlanders' run to the CIF-SS Southwest Division final. In three playoff games, he has accounted for 15 touchdowns - nine passing and six rushing.

La Habra's Barriere looks for his final highlight

STAFF WRITER

Eric Barriere’s Twitter photo aptly depicts the relationship he and La Habra coach Frank Mazzotta maintain.

It’s a simple picture really, the Highlanders quarterback exchanging a casual fist bump with his veteran coach on the sideline, presumably following a touchdown or the type of highlight reel play ‘EB3’ has made the new norm in north county.

Mazzotta has seen the kid do it all: hurdle would-be tacklers, hit receivers with a pass down the field with a simple flick of the wrist, even turn the most hopeless of plays into large gains with his mobility.

Now in year three of Barriere’s tenure as the team’s starting quarterback, the only thing that has eluded the duo is a CIF-SS championship. That can change tonight when top-seeded La Habra plays second-seeded San Clemente at Cerritos College at 7 in the Southwest Division final.

“Him and I have really been together for four years now,” Mazzotta said. “I brought him up as a freshman and we’ve worked together ever since. So it’s definitely bittersweet. I don’t want this season to end just because of that.”

Over Barriere’s 36 career starts, La Habra’s offense has averaged 42 points and has been limited to 20 points or fewer just twice, both times against Mission Viejo. The Highlanders have won 29 games with Barriere as its starter, and win No. 30 would bring the program’s CIF trophy count to seven overall.

“Coming in as a little sophomore – starting my first varsity game – I didn’t know what to expect,” Barriere explained. “After the first half of that year, the game kind of slowed down. Ever since then, I’ve been calm and nothing really phases me.”

Having won CIF titles with Daniel Morales, Chris Morales, Randall Nygren and Cody Clements in years past, Mazzotta puts Barriere atop the list of quarterbacks he has coached.

“He’s the one that combines the best running, throwing combination,” he said. “He’s just as smart and he offers more of the overall package. So he’s got to be No. 1 on the list.”

In the first three rounds of the playoffs, Barriere accounted for 15 total touchdowns – nine passing and six rushing – and did not have a pass intercepted.

A pass-first mentality might be the most impressive of Barriere’s traits, given that he’s athletic enough to get by on just his running ability.

This season, the Highlanders senior has had double-digit rushing attempts in just three games. He has gained 759 yards on just 84 carries, an average of 9 yards a pop.

“He can make anything happen at any point in time,” La Habra wide receiver Amon Fellows said. “It’s up to us to stay alive and make sure that he can throw us the ball down field instead of him running, getting hurt potentially.”

Making plays is exactly what the Highlanders will need from Barriere if they hope to celebrate the school’s first CIF championship since 2010.

And if there is reason to rejoice after tonight’s showdown, don’t expect the coach and his quarterback to be quite as laid-back as they are in the photo.

Contact the writer: kconnolly@ocregister.com


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