Sharks win first game in close contest

Following last week’s loss in the season opener, the Malibu High School varsity football team bounced back by beating Pasadena Poly in a 21-14 thriller on Saturday. The victory came at the end of a week that included tough and inspired practices, allowing the Sharks to be focused and prepared for the game.

“We had a totally different week of practice,” Sharks head coach Ray Humphrey said. “It was a spirited and a very physical week of practice and it carried over to the game.”

The Sharks’ defense started off the game with a tough hard-hitting attitude that carried on throughout the contest. Senior Saadiq Hassan forced a fumble on one of Poly’s opening drives. This was the first of three turnovers the Malibu defense forced in the game.

The Sharks’ offense also started off strong by running the football. Picking up from last week’s game in which they ran for 175 yards, the Sharks’ running attack against Poly was just as dangerous. Senior running back Matt Mason delivered Malibu’s first score of the game (and the season) on a 36-yard touchdown run on fourth and one with three minutes left in the first quarter.

Poly opened up the second quarter with a drive that concluded with a one-yard touchdown run by quarterback Hunter Merryman. The Sharks’ offense then began to find some success in the passing game as well, as quarterback Chris Konkol found receivers and got them the ball. One receiver that especially stood out was sophomore Brennan Cassone, who opened one of the Sharks’ second-quarter drives with a 25-yard catch. However, the Sharks could not find a way to put the ball into the end zone, as penalties and mistakes prevented the team from taking a lead going into halftime. One costly mistake was a fumble by Mason on the Sharks’ five-yard line with 47 seconds left in the first half. This gave Poly incredible field position that eventually led to a touchdown and gave the Panthers a 14-7 halftime lead.

“Parts of the first half kind of looked like last week’s game,” Humphrey said. “Even though we scored first, penalties and turnovers still killed us.”

The Sharks opened the second half strong with a well-balanced attack on offense with Malibu finding success in both the running game and the aerial attack. Konkol opened the half with a 19-yard run. Cassone followed with an incredible 32-yard grab. And Mason added a 20-yard run to a well-executed drive that was topped off by a one-yard touchdown run by Konkol, which made it a 14-14 game.

The Sharks’ defense also proved to be formidable during the second half. After the Panthers had marched the ball to within the Sharks’ red zone, junior Hunter Johnson came up with a timely interception that gave the ball back to the team.

Following the interception, the Sharks were able to take the lead due to a 79-yard touchdown pass from Konkol to Cassone.

Malibu’s defense then stopped the Panthers again, with a third-down sack that was followed by a blocked punt by junior Devon Baldinger. This gave the Sharks a chance to go up by two scores in the fourth quarter.

“The defense was incredible,” Humphrey said. “We gave up some seam passes in the first half, but we made the adjustment and shut them down during the rest of the game.”

There was a negative moment in the contest when Konkol was forced to leave due to injury and did not return. This left receiver and back-up quarterback Cassone to lead the Sharks’ offense. Malibu was then forced to punt, thus giving the ball to the Panthers with two and a half minutes remaining in the game. It eventually came down to a goal-line stand by the Sharks, in which they came up with four plays that successfully kept Poly from scoring, with the final one being a Cassone interception in the end zone with ten seconds left on the clock.

“Brennan [Cassone] was all over the place today,” Humphrey said. “Whether it was making catches, stepping in at quarterback or making that interception to end the game, he did exactly what the coaches wanted him to do.”

Cassone said, “I was just able to find the openings and Chris got me the ball.” He finished the game with 160 receiving yards and a touchdown.

It is not known how much time Konkol will miss due to injury, but the Sharks hope to have him for their first away game next week against Saint Monica.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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