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Football: Mesa pulls it out

September 23, 2000

Tony Altobelli

COSTA MESA - All those last-second, game-ending drills that

probably bored many Costa Mesa High football players paid up in a big way

Friday night.

Luis Avalos' 21-yard field goal with 14 seconds remaining game the

host Mustangs a 24-22 nonleague win over surprising Westminster at Orange

Coast College.

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"We work on kicking a game-winning field goal with a no-huddle and

less than 10 seconds left every day in practice," Coach Jerry Howell

said. "That what Luis gets paid the big bucks for."

Avalos' kick capped a 12-play, 92-yard drive with under five minutes

remaining as the Mustangs (3-0), ranked No. 2 in CIF Southern Section

Division IX, calmly marched down the field, despite training the winless

Lions, 24-22.

"These kids work hard and we work on keeping our cool," Howell said.

"It was a very nice win for us tonight."

Leading the offense for Mesa was sophomore running back Keola Asuega.

Making his first varsity start, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound fullback took

over the running duties for injured Nick Cabico in the second half and

finished with 158 yards on 29 carries and scored three touchdowns.

"He's a guy that can really be a major factor to our offense," Howell

said.

Cabico, who suffered a hamstring strain in last week's 52-0 win over

Bolsa Grande, suffered a slight concussion in the first half against the

Lions. He did not play in the second half, but is probable for next

week's game against Ocean View.

For the Lions (0-3), they used an assortment of plays and formations

to throw off the Mustangs' defensive plan and it worked.

Starting quarterback Akilah Lacey turned into the Lions' leading

receiver, catching three balls for 118 yards and a touchdown, while

reserve quarterback Fidel Gonzales threw for 194 yards and one touchdown

on 6-of-9 passing.

"Westminster did some things that we weren't expecting," Howell said.

"They did a great job of mixing it up on us and they kept us guessing."

A play that nearly worked for the Lions at the half, paid off at the

end of the third quarter. Trailing, 14-7, Lacey moved to receiver and

Gonzales found him for a 78-yard touchdown, tying the score at, 14-14.

The Lions tried the same play just before halftime and it worked for

42 yards, but substitute cornerback Louis Day made a touchdown-saving

tackle on the Mustangs' 2-yard-line as the gun sounded.

Playing without both starting cornerbacks, Cabico and senior Josh

Strickland due to injuries, Westminster found a way to finally reach the

end zone for the first time this season. Once they got there, they went

back again and again, putting the Mustangs behind, 22-21, with 4:58

remaining.

From there, Hulliger methodically led the Mesa troops into enemy

territory, thanks to the strong running of Asuega and senior fullback

Daniel Hunter, whose barreling 22-yard run put the Mustangs into Lions

territory.

Perhaps the biggest run of Asuega's night came on a 16-yard plow up

the middle on third-down, putting the Mustangs inside the Lions'

10-yard-line.

Hunter made the most of his three carries, rushing for 47 yards, while

Hulliger threw for 79 yards on 8-of-14 passing. His top receiver was

Lenny Lukela, who caught six passes for 67 yards.

"We've got our hands full next week with Ocean View," Powell said of

his Friday night's matchup at Newport Harbor. "It's going to be a another

rough physical battle, just like tonight."

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