Malibu football wins thriller in home opener

The Sharks celebrate their 32-29 victory against Chadwick. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Anthony

Home sweet home.

One week after suffering a tough road loss to begin the 2012 season, Malibu High bounced back and won a thrilling game against Chadwick, 32-29, in its home opener last Friday. The Sharks outlasted the Dolphins after blowing a 19-point fourth quarter lead.

“Our guys just stepped up and didn’t quit,” Malibu Coach Ray Humphrey said. “We will fight and battle to the end. I couldn’t ask for more.”

Trailing 26-7 entering the final period, Chadwick roared back with three consecutive touchdowns in less than seven minutes, including the go-ahead touchdown with 2:23 remaining to take a 29-27 advantage.

But facing what would have been a gut-wrenching loss, Malibu simply refused to lose, producing a touchdown drive full of clutch throws, catches and sheer excitement.

Malibu quarterback Chase Gardella and receiver Brennan Cassone formed a one-two punch that the Dolphins couldn’t stop.

Starting on the Malibu 20 yard line with 2:08 left on the clock, Gardella found Cassone on receptions covering 27, 5, 15 and 12 and the game-winning 19-yard touchdown pass with 34 seconds left.

“When I caught the ball in the corner of the end zone near our fans, I thought to myself, ‘Wow, what a game. What a drive.’ It was a great feeling,” Cassone said. “Chase [Gardella] and I caught fire. He knew where I would be on every play and the protection by the ‘O’ line was great.”

Making huge strides from week one to week two, Malibu looked more as a team with collective effort resulting in a 20-7 halftime lead. Cassone ran for a 20-yard touchdown and had two receiving scores of 24-yards and 70-yards as the Sharks dominated the first half.

“We played together better as a team,” said Cassone, who caught 11 passes for 218 yards and scored four times. “We wanted to adjust our attitude before the game. We were more prepared and it showed.”

After a frustrating 20-12 loss to Saint Monica last week, Humphrey challenged his players to play more as a team. He was pleased with what he saw leading up to the Chadwick game and especially after the hard-fought win.

“Our week of practice was great. They had a really good attitude and were really focused,” Humphrey said. “They know they can play. This is what we have worked for. They are pretty excited right now.”

Gardella pointed out how the Sharks will always compete despite having only 18 players on the roster. Malibu played Chadwick without the services of standout running back/quarterback Dylan Miller, who injured his knee against the Mariners.

“Like the Spartan 300, we will battle against a 1,000 with who we have,” Gardella said. “We have a lot of pride.”

Gardella finished 17 of 27 passing for 322 yards and three touchdowns as well as one rushing touchdown of three yards in the third quarter that gave the Sharks the commanding 26-7 lead.

Malibu will host Pasadena Poly on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. in its next contest.