June 15, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Laguna Hills rallies to edge Northwood in thrilling PCL overtime battle

Laguna Hills junior running back Ryan Mckevitt runs for a long gain as Northwood’s Quintin Lynch pursues. The run set up the Hawks’ first TD of the game late in the second quarter. (Photos: Fernando M. Donado, For OC Sports Zone). 

Laguna Hills High School’s football team kept its hopes alive of earning a share of the Pacific Coast League title, battling back from a 14-point deficit to defeat defending league champion Northwood 31-28 Friday night in one overtime at Irvine Stadium.

Laguna Hills (8-1, 1-1) needs to win next Friday vs. Portola and Northwood (4-5, 1-1) needs to defeat league-leading Dana Hills to force a three-way tie for first place. If Dana Hills defeats Northwood, it would be the undisputed champion.

Laguna Hills celebrated the victory when the Hawks blocked a 39-yard field goal by Northwood’s Cole Hidalgo in the overtime. Laguna Hills moved ahead 31-28 on a 27-yard field goal by Luke Whitfield to start the OT. Northwood’s Joseph Harper sacked Hawks quarterback Ben Trocchio to force the field goal attempt.

Northwood had to answer with a TD to win or a field goal to send the game into a second OT.

To see the slide show, click on the first photo:

The Hawks got a lift by the return of their star running back junior Ryan McKevitt, who rushed for 122 yards on 19 carries to help his team get in scoring position. He scored on a 1-yard TD run with 3:46 to tie the game 28-28 after missing the past seven weeks with a shoulder injury.

“He did a good job for his first game back,” said Laguna Hills Coach John Lester. “It’s really nice to have him back, he’s certainly explosive and he came close to breaking a couple tonight, he didn’t get the long one that we’ve seen but they do a great job against the run, they have nine guys in the box and it’s tough to get that big one.”

“First game back and there was a lot of pressure, but we lost to them last year at homecoming, so I think we had to return the favor and beat them on their homecoming,” added McKevitt.

McKevitt said he suffered a broken shoulder but is OK now.

“It feels great, it couldn’t be better,” he said.

Trailing 21-7 going into the third quarter, Laguna Hills defense forced two turnovers to get the Hawks even.

The Hawks Tyler Guzman intercepted a pass at the Northwood 20 yard line, Four plays later, Trocchio connected with Mason Fromm on a 13-yard TD to cut the lead to 21-14.

Then on the next possession, the Hawks Dylan Sciacca scooped up a fumble and returned the ball 35 yards for a TD to tie the game.

“The defense has really stepped it up, the last two weeks in a row we’ve sort of dug ourselves in a hole and the defense comes up with two big turnovers in the third quarter to get us back in the game,” Lester said. “The interception by Kyler Guzman and then Dylan Sciacca picking up the fumble and running it in for a touchdown was huge. That just changed the entire momentum of the game.”

Northwood QB Eddie Ma threw his fourth TD pass of the game, this one a 4-yard pass to put Northwood ahead again 28-21 before Laguna Hills rallied again.

With the score tied, Northwood tried to win the game in regulation, but the Hawks blocked a 34-yard field goal by Hidalgo with 13 seconds left.

Ma had quite a game completing 32 of 50 passes for 264 yards. Harper had an all-around great game with several sacks and hauled in 11 catches for 134 yards and TD catches of 8 and 31 yards while providing inspiration for his teammates on both offense and defense.

Hidalgo hauled in the first TD catch for Northwood.

It was looking promising for a fired up Northwood team in the first half when the Timberwolves came out fired up and jumped out to a 21-7 lead at halftime on homecoming.

“They had such a good first half and then two turnovers in a row, an interception and then they picked up the fumble and ran it back, it’s a cruel game, my kids played great,” said Northwood Coach JC Clarke.

“All you can ask as a coach is to get better and we’re so much better than we were four weeks ago, or five weeks ago. They played hard and had a chance at the field goal to win the game and we just didn’t get it done.”

Clarke again was impressed with Harper’s effort.

“He impacts the game as much as his brother (Adam Harper) did on defense and offense, he’s a special kid, they got three people on him and he’s catching the ball and running over them,” Clarke said.

Trocchio, the Hawks quarterback, passed for 90 yards and also had an 8-yard TD run in the second quarter.

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—Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com