La Habra’s football team will play one of the toughest nonleague schedules around this fall.
The Highlanders open against Orange Lutheran of the Trinity League, then play a La Mirada team coming off a CIF title and loaded with Division I players and then defending Pac-5 and Division 2 state champion Servite. After taking on Downey, they finish against a third Trinity League team, St. John Bosco.
Are the Highlanders ready?
If their play Saturday at the Edison passing tournament was any indication, the answers is a resounding yes.
Coach Frank Mazzotta’s squad won the prestigious summer tournament for the first time. In the morning session, La Habra knocked off Air Strike tournament champion Mater Dei, 31-25, in double overtime, in a first round game.
Washington State-commit Cody Clements threw the winning pass to wide out Mark Yackey (6-0, 175).
Clements (6-1, 200) played very well against Mater Dei. He seemed to make all the throws. He fired outs. He showed touch on fades. He rolled out to his right and threw. He did the same to his left. He threw deep over the middle. He also got rid of the ball quick.
“Cody’s been great,” Mazzotta said. “He’s a gamer.”
Clements also spread the ball to all four of his starting receivers against Mater Dei. Yackey, who suffered a broken collarbone last season, along with Jordan Salo (6-0, 190), Jake Neely (6-3, 175) and the speedy Brett Bartolone (5-10, 180) each caught touchdown passes.
Yackey, Salo and Neely are seniors; Bartolone is a junior. Neely made one of the toughest catches against Mater Dei – grabbing a ball in traffic.
La Habra’s two cornerbacks also looked sharp against some outstanding Mater Dei receivers, led by Victor Blackwell. There was Mike Sparling – who has scholarship offers from SMU and Northern Arizona – and Alhambra transfer Vai Peko. Vai – who sports hair that might remind some of Josh Quezada (BYU) – is a cousin of La Habra offensive lineman Kyle Peko.
Also in the secondary, La Habra features safety Will Peppard (6-1, 210), who looks close to being a linebacker. He also looks like a scholarship kid.
La Habra’s linebackers also stood out Saturday. La Habra’s trio of Aaron Porter (6-2, 235), Joe Duran (6-0, 210) and Jordan Kessun (6-0, 190) all have good size. One of the three had a nice pass breakup against South Hills in pool play.
“Defense is doing a really good job,” Mazzotta said.
La Habra, of course, has been doing a great job the past three seasons. The Highlanders are seeking a fourth consecutive CIF title.
Pool play results
La Habra 31, Mater Dei 25 (2OT)
La Habra 21, South Hills 20
La Habra def. Notre Dame