Sharks win shootout in Moorpark

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Junior quarterback Victor Tyler releases a 78-yard touchdown pass to tight end Justin Hale while senior senior Austin Rowan blocks a potential Grace Brethren tackler. Tyler passed for 115 yards and two touchdowns Friday night. Photo by Seth and Sam Rubinroit/TMT

Grace Brethren’s missed two-point conversion attempt in the closing minutes seals the victory for Malibu High School. The Sharks (6-0) are off to their best start in school history.

By Sam Rubinroit / Sports Staff Writer

The Malibu High School football team won its Frontier League opener Friday night at Moorpark College in a 51-50 thriller over Grace Brethren. The victory extends the Sharks’ record to 6-0.

The two teams traded points in the first half, with the first quarter ending with Grace Brethren leading 6-2, and the Shark’s going into halftime up 16-12. As the second half got underway, Malibu slowly pulled ahead, leading 30-20 at the end of the third. Halfway through the fourth, Malibu led 44-28, and as the Sharks began to smell victory, the coaches repeatedly warned them, “Don’t get comfortable. It isn’t over yet.”

With less than three minutes remaining, Grace Brethren scored on a long touchdown pass, pulling them within seven on a successful two-point conversion to make it 51-44. Lacking a strong kicker, Grace Brethren resorted to an onside kick after every score, and finally succeeded in recovering one after their touchdown with 2:12 remaining in the fourth quarter. After the Shark’s defense stopped the Lancers’ play on third down and 20, the Lancers went for broke on fourth down, and, with one minute remaining, their quarterback released a 32-yard touchdown pass to put them within one point of the Sharks.

Lacking a kicker, the Lancers attempted to clinch the victory with a two-point conversion pass to receiver Jack Gilliard. But Malibu senior Jake Wisnicki and junior Kyle Parker pulled him down just short of the goal line. The Lancers, trailing by one, again attempted an onside kick, but the Sharks scooped it up, and, after running out the clock, came out with the victory.

This is the first Malibu team to ever enter league play undefeated, with the previous best start being 2-0.

“It’s amazing,” said junior tight end Hunter Parr, one of only three juniors to have played varsity last season. “It feels like winning the Super Bowl because we’ve never done it before. I’ve seen a lot of improvement, we’ve really balanced out our team both offensively and defensively, and I think we have a really solid squad.”

Senior phenom tailback Sean Conrad contributed 345 yards on 32 carries and scored four touchdowns for the Sharks, three coming in the fourth quarter. Entering the game, Conrad was tied for first in California with an average of 232.2 yards per game, ranked sixth in the state for total yards with 1,161 and held the third longest touchdown, from 95 yards, according to Maxpreps.com.

“He never gets nervous before a game,” said junior quarterback Victor Tyler of Conrad. “He’s the only person on the team that doesn’t get nervous.”

As Conrad dominated the running game, the rest of the offense stepped up. Senior tight end Justin Hale added two receiving touchdowns, one from 78 yards out, the longest receiving touchdown of the season. He finished with 92 yards on three receptions. Tyler had 115 yards passing on five attempts with two touchdowns.

“It was the most intense game I’ve played so far,” Tyler said. “Our team gets better every week, but we had a dogfight tonight, and we came out victorious. Both teams came out fighting, and it lived up to the hype of the first league game.”

Despite Conrad’s breathtaking running and the defense’s miraculous last-minute stop, a prime candidate for player of the game was senior corner back Juan Anderson. He has become the Sharks’ special teams specialist, holding a Malibu record with two blocked punts in a game against Viewpoint. Anderson was spectacular against Grace Brethren, recording an interception in the third quarter and returning an onside kick for a touchdown, the first of his career.

“It felt great,” Anderson said. “I’m just glad that we won. We played as a team and everybody played well.”

Entering the game, the Sharks’ averaged 28.2 points per game, and gave up only 8.6 per game. Grace Brethren’s constant misdirection and strong passing game led to a season-high number of points scored against the Sharks.

Despite congratulating his players after the game, head coach Ray Humphrey realizes they might not be so lucky next time, warning them that it was “too damn close.”

“We’ve averaged single digits, but tonight we gave up 50,” Humphrey said. “We knew it was going to be a shoot out, but we’re just glad to be on that side of it.”

The Sharks return home on Friday to face Fillmore (6-1 overall, 1-0 league) for their league home opener at 7 p.m. The Sharks are optimistic about their chances for that game and the rest of the season.

“No one can stop us right now,” Tyler said. ” No one can stop Sean. Our passing game is starting to come together, and I don’t see how anyone can stop us.”