Category Archives: High School

2015 Whittier Daily News Player of the Year: La Habra’s Eric Barriere


Eric Barriere, La Habra, Senior

Eric Barriere walked on to La Habra High School four years ago as a virtual unknown.

He will leave arguably as one of the top players in the football team’s history.

Barriere, after leading the Highlanders to the program’s seventh divisional title is the Whittier Daily News Football Player of the Year.

“It makes me happy that people feel that way about me,” Barriere said of his legacy. “There have been a lot of great players in this program. I’m really honored to be compared to them.”

It was well-deserved this season. The senior earned Freeway player of the year honors after helping the Highlanders to a 13-2 record and the division title. He accounted for 4,000 yards and 58 touchdowns, including throwing for 3,077 and 46 scores.

Whittier Daily News Football Player of the Year Eric Barriere, of La Habra High, at the La Habra campus on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015

Whittier Daily News Football Player of the Year Eric Barriere, of La Habra High, at the La Habra campus on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015

Barriere’s biggest contribution came when it was unexpected. He not only saved his biggest performances during the biggest games, but at the biggest moments. None bigger than in the Southwest title game when he led La Habra to a 39-36 win over San Clemente.

The Highlanders quest to win the program’s seventh section title looked bleak after they gave up the lead to San Clemente with 20 seconds to play. But Barriere, who earlier in the season beat Los Alamitos with a Hail Mary throw, had one more up his sleeve, tossing 27 yards to Prince Ross to beat the Tritons.

“When he started making those plays (as a sophomore), you start thinking this is something (special),” La Habra coach Frank Mazzotta said. “From there, plays kept coming and kept coming, and obviously cultivating this year with his play leading us to the championship.

“The average kid is getting sacked, and he’s breaking them for first downs or touchdowns. It’s crazy.”

Barriere, who has received an offer from Eastern Washington, completed his high school career by throwing for 414 yards and accounting for three touchdowns in a 63-49 loss to Camarillo in the regional playoffs.

“It was a really great year,” Barriere said. “It was great for the program to win CIF for the first time in five years. All offseason and season it was our goal to win a championship and we did that.”


Source: Whittier Daily News

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

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

La Habra hitting the links with first girls golf team

By Shanin Thomas
La Habra Journal

The La Habra High School Highlanders will field their first women’s golf team for the 2015 season.
Last year, La Habra High School created a women’s golf club in preparation of creating a competitive team for this upcoming fall season.

2015 LHHS Girls Golf Team

About 15 girls joined the club with little to no experience but lots of enthusiasm and interest.
Head Coach Cody Verdugo said that most of the girls had never played before. “Only three girls had golf clubs, but at least 10 took a liking to golf. I am very pleased with the growth we have seen,” he said.
The golf club at La Habra High School included instructions for the basics of the sport. Not only did the girls in the club learn to hit a plastic golf ball in the football stadium, Coach Verdugo also taught the girls golf etiquette.
“Golf is like an onion. There are layers to the sport. It is not just about hitting the golf ball,” Verdugo said.

Interest in girls golf has not only sparked at La Habra High School but in other Freeway League schools as well.
Fullerton, Sunny Hills and Buena Park have decided to field a girls golf team this season. They will join Troy, which already had a team in place.

Troy High School will be the most competitive women’s golf team this upcoming season because they previously fielded a girls’ golf team and have competitive returners.

Mandy Arriola finishes a swing during practice. The lefty looks to help lead the Lady Highlanders during their inaugural season.

Mandy Arriola finishes a swing during practice. The lefty looks to help lead the Lady Highlanders during their inaugural season.

In fact, last season Troy’s women’s team ranked No. 1 in Orange County, No. 3 in the CIF Southern Section, and No. 5 in the state of California.

Preseason will begin in late August and league competition will start on Sept. 13.
For Verdugo, the decision to move from being on the coaching staff of La Habra Football to take up the challenge of starting a girls golf team was to follow his passion.

Verdugo fell in love with the sport of golf in his senior year of college at Chapman University. Although he has played football his entire life, golf has become a sport he has become passionate about.
Additionally, Verdugo’s son and three daughters have also taken a liking to the sport and participate competitively as golfers.

Coach Verdugo proved his coaching ability last season as the La Habra men’s golf team finished eighth in the Southern division, the best finish in the school’s history. The Whittier Daily News honored Verdugo as 2015 Coach of the Year.

The amount of money invested in women’s golf college scholarships is another reason Coach Verdugo has created a women’s golf team to accompany the men’s team.

Although the growth rate of participation of women has almost tripled men in the last few years, women still make up less than 25 percent of golfers, according to

According to, in 2014 the number of male high school golfers is double the amount of female golfers. However, Division I universities offer six scholarships to female golfers as opposed to the four and a half to male golfers.

Alyssa Heidrich takes a swing during practice.

That growth rate was shown during the first day of La Habra’s women’s golf tryouts Wednesday afternoon at Westridge Golf Club.

Twelve returners from the golf club were present as well as eight additional girls. The additional girls who showed up at tryouts did not know much golf etiquette, but they were athletic, Coach Verdugo said.

“It would be rare for someone to show up and be completely ready,” Verdugo said.

Coach Verdugo is looking to field a team between 15 and 20 girls. Although only seven players compete in a match for both varsity and junior varsity, 20 girls is a good number to manage girls who are still developing their skills as golfers, he said.

“Returners will be the foundation of the varsity team,” Coach Verdugo said.

The Lady Highlanders hit the links for the first time on September 9 against Empire League champion Valencia at Alta Vista Country Club in Placentia at 4 p.m.


2015 Lady Highlander Golf Team Roster

Mandy Arriola
Alex Barber
Nikki Chamberlain
Kira Cauley
Alyssa Enriquez
Haylee Enriquez
Alyssa Heidrich
Aurora Heuermann
Charlotte Irirzarry
Samantha Parr
Janet Romero
Julia Sanchez
Jena Schuh
Dominique Tosunian
Galina Tressler
Frankie Valencia

WDN High School Football Top 5

La Habra's Eric Barriere

La Habra’s Eric Barriere is the area’s top returning quarterback. He’s a reason why the Highlanders begin the season ranked No. 2 in the area. La Mirada is No. 1 (Correspondent photo by Chris Burt/Sports)


Strengths: The Matadores are loaded. La Mirada has been able to fill the void of graduation losses with some elite transfers, mainly receiver/defensive back Micah Croom (Servite), defensive lineman Keanu Salepaga (Long Beach Cabrillo) and quarterback Tevaka Tuioti (Long Beach Poly). They combine with some solid returners, including running back Sei-j Lauago to make the Matadores a formidable force in the CIF Southern Section Southeast Division. Very few teams in the Suburban League and in the division will be able to match up athletically with La Mirada, which could lead to one of the school’s best seasons in recent memory.

Obstacles: The schedule that coach Mike Moschetti has laid out for his team might be the team’s biggest challenges. It’s a doozy. It starts with state power St. John Bosco, which was ranked No. 19 nationally by The slate also features traditional powers Charter Oak and Mater Dei. La Mirada concludes the nonleague portion of its schedule at San Clemente. If La Mirada doesn’t get it’s psyche damaged too much going through murderer’s row, it should come out of it hardened for a strong league and playoff run. La Mirada also has to adapt to its incoming transfers. If it can come together quickly, this could be a special season.

Outlook: It all comes down to whether or not the Matadores can win their last game, something that has alluded them despite being very talented. They were 9-2 last season, but fell short of expectations with a first-round playoff loss. La Mirada has featured a lot of visits from Division I college coaches in recent years, but eventually you have to live up to the hype. This seems like a team very capable of doing that. Will it? Time will tell.


Strengths: The Highlanders, after averaging 43 points a game last season, are again expected to be a juggernaut on offense. They return some key components, led by arguably the area’s top quarterback in senior Eric Barriere. He accounted for more than 2,500 yards and 30 touchdowns last season and you can expect him to improve on those numbers this year. Another year of receiver Prince Ross should scare opposing defenses. The offensive line is solid.

Obstacles: La Habra’s Achilles’ heel last season was its defense, or lack of it. The Highlanders inability to slow the opposition down eventually led to an early playoff exit. They need big improvement in that area this season. They’ve added some good impact players on defense, but the question whether it will make a difference remains to be seen. There’s also a question at running back with Carlos Martin graduated.

Outlook: This is a team that comes into the season as one of the favorites in the Southwest Division. Barriere is as good as it gets in the area and in the division. The question is whether the Highlanders can replace Martin and get similar production. The defense, led by All-CIF linebacker Jake Colacion, also needs to improve. All signs point to a possible division title.


Strengths: The Lancers might be the best running team in the area, and that will again be their forte this season. Jonathan Wise is a key returner at receiver. The defense, which often gets overlooked, should be solid, led by senior Daniel Campos at linebacker.

Obstacles: For the second consecutive season, the Lancers, with Enrique Pacheco graduated, must find a quarterback. Justin Moreno and Kenny Coleman will vie for the spot, but it’s unknown if they can live up to what Frankie Palmer and then Pacheco did the past two seasons.

Outlook: The Lancers are usually the last team standing in the area. That might not be the case this season, with juggernauts La Mirada and La Habra expecting strong seasons, but this looks like another unit that can add to La Serna’s recent tradition of long playoff runs. The run game and defense will be there, and if they get some production from quarterback, another run at a division title seems to be in the Lancers’ future.


Strengths: The Raiders will again feature one of the top running attacks in the area. They rushed for 3,000 yards last season and that type of production is expected again. Running back Jacob Fimbres returns after gaining 1,622 and most of the offensive line is back at well. Sonora should also be productive in the passing game, which will make its run game that much tougher to defend.

Obstacles: Sonora is young on defense, including in the secondary. It’s a unit that could be its downfall, especially in a Freeway League that features some pass-happy teams such as La Habra and Buena Park. If the group can come together, it could be a special year. But it’s a major question mark to begin the season.

Outlook: The Raiders started strong last season, then fell off the map. They have enough quality players back that a quest to make the playoffs should become a reality. This is a team that if everything falls into place, it can compete for the league title. But the first step would be getting to the postseason, which should happen.


Strengths: The Oilers leaned on its run game last season and rode it to an Almont League title. It will be more of the same this season. Isaac Mendibles was the area’s top back in 2014, rushing for nearly 2,000 yards and 24 touchdowns, and he’s back for more this season. Most of the offensive line, which paved the way for the senior, is also back. Montebello is also solid on defense, and it’s those two traits that will lead to success again.

Obstacles: Montebello lost some key players to graduation and it must fill those holes to succeed. It could be a slow start, especially with a schedule that includes CIF-SS Mid-Valley Division semifinalist Northview and finalist Paraclete. If it can come together quickly this is a team that will be a tough out late in the season. But it’s a concern early on.

Outlook: The Oilers won the league title and advanced to the Mid-Valley quarterfinals last season. They return some key skilled players and this looks like a team that can improve on its 2014 run. Another league title and a deep playoff run looks to be in Montebello’s future.