Close second half makes flag football rivalry game a nail-biter as Firehawks beat YULA 24-19

SMILES: The undefeated boys Flag Football team shared a light moment with Coach Ryan Coleman on the home field at LACES, the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies.

M.J. Glever

SMILES: The undefeated boys Flag Football team shared a light moment with Coach Ryan Coleman on the home field at LACES, the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies.

Eytan Kent, Staff Writer

A rivalry game that Shalhevet expected to dominate ended up being one of the toughest of the season, as the boys flag football team narrowly defeated YULA 24-19 Oct. 21 on the home field at LACES.

The team kept its undefeated streak alive in spite of two key players being out with injuries. Still, it blamed itself for how hard it was.

“We came into the game too cocky and we underestimated them,” said coach Ryan Coleman in a post-game interview. “The team in a rivalry game that brings the most heart and energy wins, regardless of record.”

YULA started out strong and kept fighting until the clock hit zero. The first half was close until at the end of the half Shalhevet pulled ahead by two touchdowns. Then in the second half, the Panthers pulled ahead of the Firehawks.

But with a few big defensive stops, the Firehawks came out victorious – though both offense and defense were playing without injured upperclassmen.

The first touchdown in the game came in the first quarter when Shalhevet quarterback Jacob Dauer threw a deep touchdown to freshman Zack Muller for his second touchdown on the season.

During the second quarter, senior Kian Margzahr returned an interception for a touchdown to make the Firehawks’ lead 12-0.

At the end of the second quarter, YULA drove down the field and scored with four seconds left, cutting the Firehawks’ lead to six points. Senior Micah Gill returned the kickoff for a touchdown to make the lead 12 points again at the half.

In the third quarter, the Panthers scored a touchdown that brought the score to 18-12 Shalhevet, the Firehawks in the lead.

That’s when the trouble really began.

To start the fourth, YULA drove down the field and scored, giving the Panthers their first lead of the night, 19-18. It was a six-minute drive and YULA now had the lead with less than four minutes left. Shalhevet had to score again to win.

With two minutes left in the game, Jacob ran the ball into the end zone to score the winning touchdown. But YULA was playing so well that some players didn’t think the defense would stop them.

“I didn’t think my touchdown was going to be the game winner,” Jacob said later.

YULA was driving down the field and losing by five. With less than 30 seconds left in the game, it was third and short and the Panthers still had 30 yards to go to score a touchdown.

Shalhevet cornerback Eli Greenberg made a huge stop to force a fourth down. He swatted the ball down, which prevented YULA from scoring.

The Panthers had one more chance. With 17 seconds left in the game, YULA had the ball on a fourth-and-short, which would be the outcome of the game.

YULA decided to throw the ball, even though their running game had been working for them. Firehawk linebacker Alexander Wiesel batted the ball down and won the game for Shalhevet.

The game was a nail bitter, and was close all the way until the end.

“By expectation, rivalries are supposed to be dogfights, and it was a close game,” said Micah. “I didn’t have the best game, Jacob didn’t have the best game, but we got lucky on one return and we pulled out with the win.”

Two of the Firehawks’ star players missed the game. Cornerback Seffie Arnon was out with a back injury, and wide receiver Eitan Halpert had an injured ankle.

“Going into the game, we thought we would beat them pretty easily seeing how much we’ve beaten them by in the past,” said Jacob. “We didn’t realize how much [Eitan’s and Seffie’s] injuries would affect us.”

The players who substituted were not the same.

“Naturally their lack of experience threw us off a little bit and we didn’t have as much chemistry as we wanted too,” said Jacob.

Eitan was injured Oct. 12 at a basketball practice. He made a layup and when he came down, his ankle felt very uncomfortable. Seffie was hurt Oct. 18 while playing on another flag football team.

Both Eitan and Seffie returned to play for the Firehawks for the Loma Linda tournament Oct. 23- 25. The Firehwaks’ record in the tournament was 2-2, snapping their winning streak but leaving them still undefeated in league play.