The Malibu High School Sharks were involved in another fourth quarter nail-biter, but came up short in a 22-19 loss to Pasadena Poly Panthers on Saturday in Malibu.
Struggles by the Sharks special teams proved too much, despite a stout defensive effort. The Sharks defense forced four turnovers, including two interceptions by juniors Nick Anthony and Austin Jansen and a fumble recovery by senior Jordan Klarenbeck.
“[Defensive coordinator] Matt Oliver had a good game plan. We were able to stop their running game, and our offense moved the ball well,” Head Coach Ray Humphrey said after the game. “But we’ve got to improve our special teams play and clean up the mistakes. We shot ourselves in the foot too many times and couldn’t recover.”
The Sharks got on the scoreboard first, late in the opening quarter when junior QB Chase Gardella found his favorite target Brennan Cassone for a 20-yard touchdown. The point after the touchdown conversion was missed, and was the first sign of special team struggles on Saturday.
On the ensuing kickoff the Pasadena Poly returned the ball to the Malibu 30-yard line. The Panthers promptly took advantage of the great field position scoring a 25-yard pass, grabbing a 7-6 lead.
Malibu responded quickly, as Gardella connected with senior Gianni Rivetti for a 15-yard score. Sophomore Matt Vincent’s kick was good and the Sharks led 13-7.
The Sharks threatened to score one more time in the final minute of the first half, but were turned away by Pasadena Poly.
Both teams traded turnovers in the third quarter, with the Pathers taking advantage and scoring another touchdown to go ahead 14-13. By the fourth quarter, the Pasadena Poly running game was frustrated by the tenacious effort by Malibu’s defensive line.
The Sharks offense found its groove again as Gardella found Cassone one more time in the end zone. Malibu’s 2-point conversion attempt fell short and the Sharks were clinging to a 19-14 lead with 6 minutes to play.
Pasadena Poly once again took advantage of sloppy Sharks special teams play returning the ensuing kickoff to the Sharks 12-yard line. The Sharks defense backed up played tough, but the Panthers punched it in and took a 22-19 lead with less than 3 minutes left in the game.
Gardella and Cassone tried to repeat their comeback success from a week ago, but a Panthers interception at their own 35-yard line sealed the Poly victory.
“I’m proud of our line play today. [Senior lineman] Eddie Johnstone played a heck of game on both sides of the ball. He led the way as a senior captain, pumping the guys up and keeping them motivated,” Humphrey said.
Senior receiver Brennan Cassone continued to impress college scouts. In the past two games, Cassone has amassed 350-yards receiving and scored 6 touchdowns.
The Sharks travel to Flintridge Prep this Friday, Sept. 21. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. on the Occidental College Field.