Monthly Archives: December 2015

NORWALK – They had a prayer answered back in mid-September when faced with a similar situation.

With five seconds left on the clock and a quarterback capable of doing just about anything with the ball in his hand, the La Habra sideline knew it still had a flicker of hope on the final play from scrimmage Friday night in the CIF-SS Southwest Division championship game.

After avoiding San Clemente’s initial rush, scrambling to his right to extend the play, Eric Barriere heaved a 27-yard pass into the back corner of the end zone where a diving Prince Ross made the catch of a lifetime, inciting a celebration no Highlander will forget in La Habra’s stunning 39-36 win over the Tritons on the final play from scrimmage at Cerritos College.

“It’s ironic because we said the team that had the ball last would probably win, but I didn’t realize it would be the team who had the ball with 20 seconds on the clock,” said Highlanders coach Frank Mazzotta, amidst a sea of blue. “With the ball in Eric’s hand, we’ve got a chance. We tried to get the ball in his hands a lot tonight.”

Barriere was nothing short of brilliant in capturing the school’s seventh CIF championship, and its first since 2010. The senior completed 15 of 16 passes for 293 yards and four touchdowns. He also carried the ball 12 times for 98 yards, scoring on a dazzling 38-yard run on which he hurdled a would-be tackler, before splitting two more defenders en route to the end zone.

Ross and Amon Fellows were the only two La Habra receivers to catch passes Friday night. Fellows had eight receptions for 142 yards and a score, and Ross had seven catches for 151 yards and three scores, none bigger or more clutch than the 27-yarder with no time left on the clock.

“I ran through the safeties, Eric was scrambling to his right and he saw me, I was jumping,” Ross explained. “He threw it and I knew I had to get to it. This it it. We have no time left. So I dove and I got both of my legs in.”

La Habra (13-1), which won its seventh CIF-SS title since 2002, jumped out to a 33-21 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter on a 4-yard touchdown run from CJ Taylor (147 yards).

San Clemente (11-3) cut the deficit to four points on the ensuing possession, with quarterback Jack Sears bulldozing his way 27 yards for the score, and then converting the two-point conversion.

With 3:07 left on the clock and the Highlanders driving into the Triton red zone, Mazzotta elected to go for a fourth-and-6 from the 16-yard line. Barriere’s lone incompletion of the night gave San Clemente the ball with plenty of time on the clock.

An 11-play, 84-yard touchdown drive ended with Sears’ 4-yard strike to Brandon Reaves, putting San Clemente ahead, 36-33, with 20 seconds remaining.

“When I saw the score, I kind of felt down, but I knew we had a shot,” Barriere said. “I knew our team was capable of scoring again. We got a big return from Eric Lancaster-Garcia, plus the flag.”

Lancaster-Garcia returned the ensuing kickoff to the 45-yard line, with a personal foul penalty giving the Highlanders possession at San Clemente’s 41 with 10 seconds to play.

Barriere hit Fellows with a quick 14-yard pass on the sideline, setting up a play every Highlander will remember for the rest of their lives.

“It was a tough loss and words can’t heal what happened tonight,” San Clemente coach Jaime Ortiz said. “But 10, 15 years from now, these guys can look back and say they had a great career here at San Clemente High School. Back-to-back CIF finals, and they put San Clemente back on the map.”

La Habra wins CIF-SS football title on Hail Mary finish

La Habra High School’s quest for its seventh CIF Southern Section title looked over. Done. Kaput.

But nothing is over when Eric Barriere is your quarterback. He proved it earlier in a final-second win over Los Alamitos and did it again Friday, tossing 27 yards to Prince Ross to give the Highlanders an unbelievable 39-36 victory over San Clemente to win the Southwest Division title at Cerritos College.

Barriere accounted for 386 yards and five touchdowns for La Habra, which improved to 13-1 and earned a spot in next week’s CIF State Regional bowl games. San Clemente, getting 252 yards and three touchdowns from Jack Sears, finished 11-3.

“It was like the win over Los Alamitos,” Barriere said. “I had to buy time. I just threw it up and another mircacle happened, and (Ross) caught it. And we won the championship.”

VIDEO: Highlights form La Habra’s 39-36 win

La Habra’s chances looked dead late after Sears guided the Tritons 86 yards and gave them a 36-33 lead with a 4-yard pass to Brandon Reaves with 20 seconds left.

La Habra then returned the kick to its 44 and got the ball at San Clemente’s 41 after a 15-yard penalty. Barriere completed a pass to the 27 before he rolled right with five seconds left. He then lofted a pass toward the northeast corner and Ross made a diving catch to win it.

“The last play; it was amazing,” Ross said. “Eric had to find me. Eric rolled out, he threw the ball and I caught it.

“There’s nothing better than to win the championship like this. It was amazing.”

La Habra looked to have the game secure early in the fourth quarter.

The Highlanders, after giving up a 79-yard drive to San Clemente for a 21-14 deficit, countered with back-to-back scoring plays by Barriere. The senior tossed 84 yards to Ross on a catch and run before Barriere ran 38 yards for a 27-21 lead.

CJ Taylor, who rushed for 148 yards, made it 33-21 with 11:54 left.

Sears followed with a 27-yard run to make it 33-29 with 8:54 to play before throwing the 4-yard pass to Reaves with 20 seconds left.

Barriere then followed with his heroics.

“We have belief in ourselves,” Barriere said. “Once they scored, we said we can still score. Our team believed we could still score and we end up scoring. I just want to thank God for blessing us with another victory. It’s amazing.”

The game was tied at 14 at halftime.

San Clemente forced a fumble inside its 10 late in the second quarter, then drove 91 yards to tie with three seconds left in the half.

The big play was an 27-yard option pass from Keith Jones to Eldridge at the La Habra 26. Sears followed with a scramble to the 8 before throwing 2 yards to Eldridge to tie it at 14.

La Habra was looking good early, scoring on its first two drives. The Highlanders, who had 210 yards in the first half, opened the game with a 71-yard drive and took a 7-0 lead on 30-yard pass from Barriere to Amon Fellows at 8:32 of the first quarter.

Barriere, after San Clemente tied it at 7, drove La Habra 80 yards gave the Highlanders a 14-7 lead with a 9-yard pass to Ross at 11:15 of the second. He set it up with a 16-yard pass to Fellows at the Tritons’ 11 on a fourth and 10.

San Clemente, after La Habra took its early lead, scored its first touchdown on an 80-yard drive. Brandon Reaves, who rushed for 50 yards in the first half, capped it with a 1-yard run.


Heroic Highlanders, CIF Champions

La Habra Football 2015, CIF ChampionsBy: Jason Burch

Another miraculous catch on the final play lifts La Habra over San Clemente 39-36 to win CIF title for the seventh time in school history on Friday night at Cerritos College.

The Tritons scored a go ahead touchdown to make it 36-33 with just 20 seconds left on the clock, forcing the Highlanders to call upon quarterback Eric Barriere to pullout another improbable finish.

With the CIF Championship hanging in the balance, “EB3” used his uncanny improvisation skills to elude the pass rush, allowing Prince Ross enough time to get open in the corner of the end zone where Barriere threaded the needle between a cluster of red and white jerseys for the title-winning touchdown as time expired.

“Oh my lord that kid is something,” head coach Frank Mazzotta said of his quarterback.

Ross said that he knew Barriere was going to make the play and was just trying to get open for him.

“I knew Eric could do it, he is amazing,” Ross said. “For him to throw that ball and trust me was great.”

After giving up the lead with just seconds to play, prospects looked grim for La Habra. However, drawing upon their experience with a similar last second victory over Los Alamitos early this season, the Highlanders believed they could make it happen.

Eric Lancaster-Garcia, who had the game-winning grab against the Griffins in week four, returned the ensuing kickoff to the 45-yard-line and a personal foul on San Clemente moved the ball to the Triton 40.

With time for two plays, Barrier quickly hit Ross on an out for 13 yards to stop the clock and setup the final play— the 27-yard touchdown from Barriere to Ross.

“This is my first ever championship, it’s a great feeling to win it like this,” Barriere said.

Earlier, the Triton defense came up with a big stop with just over three minutes to play, when they deflected Barriere’s pass into the end zone on fourth down, falling incomplete.

San Clemente took possession at the 16-yard-line with 3:01 to play and quarterback Jack Sears led them on an 84-yard go-ahead scoring drive.

The first half ended with the score knotted at 14-14.

Both offenses moved the ball with ease for the majority of the game. The only punts in the game for either side came in the third quarter when the Highlander defense forced the Tritons to punt on back-to-back series.

Barriere played a near-flawless game, completing 16-17 passes for 314 yards and four touchdowns, adding 93 yards and one touchdown on the ground.

Ross had a big second half with 128 yards and two touchdowns, including an 84-yard catch and run that tied the game 21-21. He finished with 174 yards and three scores.

Amon Fellows was Barriere’s go-to receiver in the first half, racking up 101 of his 140 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown on the opening drive.

The Highanders turned to running back C.J. Taylor to carry the load in the second half. After a slow start and an early fumble, Taylor began to wear down the Triton defense late, gaining chunks of yards with his patient and churning running style. Taylor gained 101 yards in the second half, and 139 total yards with one score.

The Tritons much like they had all season, relied heavily on the three-pronged rushing attack of Vlad Dzhabiev, Brandon Reaves and quarterback Jack Sears. The trio combined for 319 yards. Reaves added two touchdowns, while Sears and Dzhabiev each scored one.

Sears carried the offense down the stretch, with 103 of his 124 rushing yards coming in the second half. The junior quarterback went 11-16 for 125 yards passing with two scores.

The Tritons (11-3) final game was a heartbreaker, but the team promises to be strong again next season with Sears returning for his senior season. Head coach Jaime Garcia commended his quarterback’s will to win and was proud of the way his team battled.

“It’s a tough loss and words can’t heal what happened here tonight, but 10-15 years from now these kids can say they had a great career here,” Tritons head coach Jaime Garcia said.

The Highlanders (13-1) captured the school’s seventh CIF Championship with the win. Mazzotta said tonight was definitely the most dramatic one yet. La Habra will move on to a regional championship game against Camarillo (14-0) next week.

Source: La Habra Journal


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La Habra’s Barriere looks for his final highlight

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.


Source: OC Register