Sharks football upsets Fillmore

The Sharks celebrate after their upset victory over Fillmore on Friday. Photo by Seth and Sam Rubinroit

The win keeps the team’s playoff hopes alive.

By Sam Rubinroit / Special to The Malibu Times

The Malibu High School football team, led by head coach Ray Humphrey, upset Fillmore on Friday, 28-21. The Sharks, coming off two losses in their first two games of league play, started hazy, but, as the fog lifted, found clarity and were able to pull themselves together for a well-earned win. The Sharks donned new teal jerseys for the first time all season, which seemed to supply them with renewed strength to pull ahead of the previously undefeated Flashes.

Malibu gave up a touchdown on its first defensive outing, but the players did not let it get to them and were able to stop the extra point. After lineman Mitchell Rathner returned the kickoff to the 30-yard line, running back Sean Conrad ran 70 yards on Malibu’s first offensive play of the night to put the Sharks up 7-6. After a great defensive display by the Sharks, the Flashes were forced to punt. Unfortunately, the stunning touchdown return by quarterback J.P. O’Fallon was called back on a penalty, and the Sharks were unable to score. Following another impressive defensive display by Malibu, the Flashes missed a field goal, putting the ball back in Malibu’s hands. The quarter ended with Malibu up, 7-6.

Penalties pushed the Sharks back to a first and 25 in the second quarter. But the Sharks completed a long-range pass to receiver Victor Tyler, which put the team on the 11-yard line. From there, Conrad ran in his second touchdown of the night, putting Malibu up 14-6. After allowing another Fillmore touchdown, the Sharks engineered a great run by O’Fallon and finished their last drive before halftime with a touchdown pass to Charles Vines. At the half, Malibu led 21-14.

The Sharks began the third quarter with a kick return, and, on their first offensive set, Conrad ran in his third touchdown of the night on a 65-yard run, putting Malibu up 28-14. On Fillmore’s first offensive play of the half, Rathner picked off a pass, leading to a spectacular first-down reception by tight end Justin Hale. The Sharks lost the ball on a fumble, but answered right back as linebacker Jake Wisnicki forced a fumble that was picked up by Hale. However, the Sharks were unable to convert, and were forced to punt it away to end the quarter.

Malibu allowed a touchdown to begin the fourth quarter, but then its defense stiffened. After the offense was forced to punt, the defense stepped on the field, and on a Fillmore fourth-down play, linebacker Graham Ellis made an incredible stop. The Sharks’ offense took over, and, after a 43-yard punt by Hale, it was up to the defense to finish the game and hold the lead. They did just that, and after another tackle by Ellis, Malibu regained possession of the ball after an unsuccessful Fillmore attempted fourth down conversion. The offense stepped onto the field for the last time and kneeled to finish the game off, with a 28-21 victory.

The Sharks saw key performances on the offensive end by Tyler, Hale and Conrad, while Ellis and Rathner led the defense. Conrad had three touchdowns and both Tyler and Hale stepped up to make key receptions for the Sharks. Rathner had an interception, and Ellis finished the game strong. Sharks’ kicker Jonny Palmer was also a perfect 4-4 on extra points, and even made a key tackle on a kickoff. Before the game, coach Humphrey had told his players, “If you make plays, we are going to win this game.” The Sharks did just that, on both ends of the ball.

The win keeps Malibu’s playoff hopes alive, with a league record of 1-2. The Sharks showed a lot of improvement since their last game, a 35-13 loss to Bishop Diego.

“This team has stepped up time in and time out this year,” coach Humphrey said. “It’s been amazing, and we’ve overcome a lot of stuff. We fumble the ball, but we get it back. I told them ‘Things happen. It’s how you adjust coming after that that makes you.'”

Malibu’s junior varsity squad was not as successful, falling to Fillmore, 27-7. Both the junior varsity and varsity teams play away this week, but return home to face Animo Leadership for their last game of the regular season. The junior varsity team plays Nov. 8 at 4 p.m. and the varsity squad returns home on Nov. 9 at 7 p.m.. The Sharks’ season-ending varsity game is both Senior Night and Homecoming.