This week delivered one of the best matchups in Southern California, when the Los Alamitos Griffins hosted the Santa Margarita Eagles on Thursday, September 15, 2022, at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Long Beach.
The Eagles were flying high with a 4-0 record, ranked #44 in the nation and tied for #5 in the state. The Griffins came in with a 2-2 record, ranked #59 in the nation and #7 in the state.
Santa Margarita won the coin toss and started the game off with a bang, scoring on a 70-yard pass play on the first play of the game. Los Alamitos, not wanting to be outdone, marched methodically down the field and scored a touchdown of their own.
After each team had the opportunity to possess the ball, everyone knew they were in for a high-scoring affair, and it did not disappoint. However, it also provided some insight as to the offensive approach Los Alamitos would take in the game. Not only were they running a no-huddle offense, but they ran an up-tempo, no-huddle offense from beginning to end.
The Los Alamitos defense missed several key tackles, allowing Santa Margarita to rack up 30 first-half points. However, on the other side, Los Alamitos Offensive Coordinator TJ Fenton called a masterful game. The up-tempo offense had the perfect mix of run and pass, allowing their offensive line to control the line of scrimmage. Los Alamitos went into halftime with a 35-30 lead. The second half was just as explosive as the first, with the game culminating in a 69-49 Los Alamitos victory.
Malachi Nelson passed for 203 yards and became the school’s all-time passing leader. Makai Lemon finished with 11 catches for 184 yards and a touchdown, which does not include the 96-yard touchdown return of a kickoff. Damien Henderson finished the night with a career-high 305 yards rushing on 38 carries and scored five touchdowns.
The high-powered offense played well as a unit, executing the coach’s game plan to perfection. However, we would remiss if we did not acknowledge the young men on the front lines allowing the offense to perform like a well-oiled machine. Left Tackle #59 Maki Stewart (So.), left guard #60 Fonz Leomiti (Sr.), center #52 Kapono Mao (So.), right guard #68 Rudy Montalvan (Sr.), and right tackle #50 Zion Scrivens (Fr.).
The centerpiece of the offensive line, Kapono Mao, was quoted as saying, “I was excited about our game plan to run tempo and tire them out.” When asked how he felt the unit felt moving forward, he said, “We performed well, knowing that we always have room for improvement. I believe it’s only up from here.”
Los Alamitos is now ranked #50 in the nation and #6 in the state. However, allow me to provide some context that won’t show up in a ranking. Los Alamitos was dominant in their wins over Garces, Servite, and Santa Margarita.
The loss against Basha comes with an asterisk. Los Alamitos was in complete control of that game and dominating the Bears 21-0 after one quarter and on their way to a route. It wasn’t until Makai Lemon was ejected from the game, that the tide in the game turned. Observers suspect that if Lemon had not been ejected from that game, Los Alamitos would have only a single loss on their record; that one against the #14 ranked team in the nation and deserving of a top 30 national ranking.