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La Habra shows it's still Freeway's best
LA HABRA – For a team that was supposed to be in a rebuilding year and perhaps vulnerable against league opponents, La Habra looked like its old self in the Freeway League finale against crosstown rival Sonora on Friday at La Habra High.
The Highlanders dominated defensively and broke the game open in the second half en route to a 51-19 victory.
The victory gives La Habra (7-3, 5-0) its sixth consecutive Freeway League title and 11th in the 13-year tenure of Coach Frank Mazzotta. The Highlanders have not lost a league game since 2006.
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La Habra's victory, combined with Troy's victory over Sunny Hills, solidifies the Southwest Division playoff seedings out of the Freeway League.
La Habra, Troy (7-3, 4-1) and Sonora (5-5, 3-2) enter the playoffs as Nos. 1, 2 and 3 seedings, respectively.
The Highlanders are guaranteed a first-round playoff game at home.
"This program has been built on action and not words," Mazzotta said in response to those who felt La Habra's streak could be in jeopardy this season. "I think we knew that we were going to have to improve every week."
La Habra's one-sided victory overshadowed the performance of Sonora quarterback Kyle Mahlstede, who completed 13 of 20 passes for 259 yards and three touchdowns.
But two of those touchdown passes came in the fourth quarter, with the contest well out of reach for Sonora.
The Highlanders, running out of a no-huddle offense for most of the game, opened the contest with masterful 66-yard scoring drive.
Starting from their 34-yard line, the Highlanders ran on 10 of the 11 plays on the drive, capped by a 4-yard touchdown run from Hector Islas.
The Raiders responded with an impressive drive, the big play being 33-yard touchdown pass from Mahlstede to Nate Miranda.
But La Habra's defense didn't give up much from that point and the Raiders were forced to start several drives from deep in their own territory.
La Habra's defense also scored eight points.
Two came when defensive lineman Tristan De Larose tackled Sonora running back Matt Villasenor in the end zone for a safety late in the third quarter.
Sonora had a first and goal from the 8 on their next drive, but defensive back Noah Massman scooped up a fumble and returned it 72 yards for a touchdown to make the score 35-7 in the fourth quarter.
With La Habra leading 19-7, Sonora was driving for what could have been a crucial score just before halftime.
The Raiders went for it on fourth and 14 from the 25, but Michael DeArmond sacked Mahlstede and La Habra took over on downs.
On the opening drive of the third quarter, Sonora faced a fourth and 2 from La Habra's 21.
However, Villasenor could only manage a 1-yard gain on fourth down.