Boys’ Flag Football undefeated streak ends with back-to-back losses to AGBU


BP Photo by Clara Sandler

DISAPPOINTMENT: Ezra Hess prepares to throw ball as Zack Hirschhorn defends an AGBU payer during one of the two losing games.

By Clara Sandler, Sports Editor

After two years of undefeated seasons in the Coastal League, the boys’ flag football team ended its 30-game win streak this week, losing to AGBU of Canoga Park twice in four days.

The Firehawks lost the first game Sept. 22 by a score of 6-0, and lost the second game, Sept. 25, 14-0.  Both games were played in Encino.

“I mean, it was tough, but streaks are meant to be broken,” said senior and starting quarterback Alex Silberstein.
Shalhevet Athletic Director and Coach Ryan Coleman said after the first loss that the boys had not had the right spirit going into the game.

“We were not ready to play effectively,” Coach Coleman said as the players left the field. “I told them before the game that they were going to get their butts kicked when I saw the way that they were warming up.”

It might have had something to do with the weather. According, the temperature in Encino yesterday afternoon topped out at 100 degrees. Despite the extreme heat and long distance Shalhevet, about 12 families showed up to cheer.

Both games were shutouts, and both times the defense was strong. But the offense was unable to execute.

Coming off Thursday’s loss, senior defensive captain and cornerback Eli Greenberg thought that the team needed some more energy.

“Defensively, we’re going to keep the same thing we did [in the last game], because it seemed to really work,” Eli said before the second matchup. “In terms of offense, we have to start fast, pick up the energy. As a whole really, we have to pick up the energy and get things going early.

“It’s obviously not a good feeling … knowing that I’m the captain of the team who broke the streak.”

But the second game was worse. The Firehawks started on defense in the first quarter and ended up in the red zone – within 20 yards of the goal – but were unable to execute.

In the second quarter, AGBU scored twice, the second time because the Titans intercepted a pass thrown by Alex Silberstein.

In the third quarter, Shalhevet was right outside the end zone, but again was unable to score, and in the fourth quarter, they made it into the red zone, but AGBU intercepted the ball and would have scored yet again had the referees not called a flag to nullify the touchdown.

The final score was 14-0.

The Firehawks changed quarterbacks three times. Alex Silberstein started and closed, but junior Zack Hirschhorn and senior Ezra Hess also played quarterback.

AGBU tight end Luke Love said that his team had been preparing to face the Firehawks.

“We played you in the championship game last year, and we’ve been preparing for all season for you guys,” said Luke. “Our season is considered a win because we beat you.”

But he also did not understand why Shalhevet kept changing quarterbacks.

“We had a game plan before the game, and we stuck to that game plan,” Luke said. “I didn’t know why they switched – the original quarterback was the better choice.”

Coach Coleman said he changed the quarterback partly because he didn’t feel Alex was playing well, and partly because of a specific play.

“I tried to give our back-up quarterback a chance,” Coleman said. “When I changed to Zach Hirschhorn to be quarterback, that’s because we run a specific play on an almost every game basis, so that’s normal for us.”

The Encino games marked the end of a league streak that had started in the team’s second year, when the then year-old team was brought into the Coastal League by Coach Christopher Buckley.  That season, Coach Buckley led the team to its successful first championship, which was repeated last year under Coach Coleman.

The team lost other games along the way, but not in the Coastal League.  It as placed eighth last year in the Loma Linda Flag Football Tournament, where they play teams from Seventh Day Adventist schools that use Sundays instead of Saturdays. This year they won’t be participating because it conflicts with Sukkot.

Still, the league record felt like a streak and Eli Greenberg said the loss hurt.

“It’s obviously not a good feeling, knowing that I’m the captain of the team who broke the streak,” said Eli.

Players blamed themselves.

“We just couldn’t execute,” said Firehawk wide receiver Zack Muller, a sophomore. “We had the catches, they just weren’t far enough. It was just our own mistakes.”

For his part, AGBU Coach Jack Keshishyan said that the Titans won the first game with luck, and the Firehawks should have won 18-6. AGBU stands for Armenian General Benevolent Union.

“Honestly I felt that on Thursday, we got very lucky,” Coach Keshishyan said. “Shalhevet gained way more yards than we did if you did the total yardage. They moved the ball way better than we did. They just had a couple of unlucky dropped balls. And today, there were a couple of unlucky dropped balls.

“I needed to make sure that we tightened up our defense, and they put out the game plan that I had, and they executed which was the best part of it all.”

The Firehawks’ next game was scheduled for Sept. 26 against Ambassador, but was canceled due to the excessive heat. Their record so far is 4-2.