Last week’s 28-7 loss to Palos Verdes snapped a 16-game Bay League winning streak for .
After allowing two punt return scores in the Palos Verdes game, special teams was a key focus going into the week.
Keeping offensive players in front of the hard-pursuing Mustangs defense was another idea preached.
“We practiced all week not running uphill—that’s what we were told and that’s what we did,” Mira Costa defensive lineman Quincy Brown said.
Mira Costa caused three turnovers and benefitted from great field position in a 31-8 win over , in which the Panthers probably felt like they were running uphill.
“We kept them in front of us and made plays,” Brown said with a smile “Our defense was glorious.”
The senior defensive lineman deserved to smile on an afternoon where he recovered two fumbles that led to Mira Costa (3-5, 2-1) touchdowns and made plays behind the line, especially important with tackle R.J. Coleman out with an injury.
Following a Brown fumble recovery, dynamic wide receiver Raphael Lawson-Gayle took a handoff and sprinted 14 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter.
On the first play of the second half, tailback Stephen Giovati scored from 2-yards out for the Mustangs second touchdown, again benefitting from a short field thanks to a Panthers turnover.
“It was pretty good fortune for us as an offense that has struggled to get those short fields,” Mira Costa coach Don Morrow said.
Trailing 17-0, the Panthers answered with what would be their only touchdown of the day.
An awkward exchange from under center careened off a Panther player’s foot, and quarterback Ian Escutia scooped the ball and rolled out to his right where he found an open Matt Hezlep in stride for a 45-yard touchdown.
“We got what we expected from them, but we came out flat and spotted them 17 points and dug ourselves too big of a hole,” Peninsula coach Adam Boyd said.
The Panthers (5-3, 1-2), fresh off a 33-6 win over Leuzinger, struggled all day offensively. Star running back Okuoma Idah played minimally due to an injured ankle.
Idah’s strong production (900 yards, 9 touchdowns) was sorely missed.
“I have been working on my ankle all week, it just wasn’t in good enough shape,” Idah said. “We have to play better and limit our mistakes going forward.”
The Mustangs scored on their first two possessions of the second half as tailback Brandon Edmond amassed 70 yards on five carries and scored from six yards out.
Mira Costa defensive back David Davis picked off Escutia and Edmond capped a 53-yard drive with an 11-yard score to put the Mustangs comfortably in front 31-8 just before the final quarter.
“He ran the ball hard,” Boyd said. “He’s a quick little scatback and he ran the heck out of the ball.”
The run-oriented Mustangs had some success in the short passing game as quarterback Ryan Sweigart hooked up with Lawson-Gayle three times in the second half.
“We need balance, they know we’re going to run the ball. If we can pass the ball well, that helps and Raphael is a good player to get the ball to,” Edmond said.
With two games left in the Bay League season, each game becomes critical in securing any remaining playoff spots as Palos Verdes (6-2, 3-0) and Redondo Union sit atop the league at 3-0 and play next week for sole possession of first place.
“We are down to that part of the year where everyone is scrambling for one of those last playoff spots,” Morrow said. “These next games against Leuzinger and Redondo are going to be huge.”