MHS football loses first of the season

Junior tailback Jackson Whirt stepped up with a 14-yard touchdown after the loss of senior tailback Sean Conrad

Star runningback Sean Conrad had to be taken out of the game after suffering a calf injury.

By Sam Rubinroit / Sports Staff Writer

The Malibu High School football team’s perfect season came to an end on Friday, with the Sharks falling for the fist time this season against the Fillmore Flashes, 49-29.

The Sharks entered the game with their best start in school history-a 6-0 record overall and 1-0 in the Frontier League.

The opening minutes of the contest involved mainly a ground battle as both teams relied strongly on their talented running games. Fillmore (7-1 overall, 2-0 league) took an early lead with a touchdown run, but, when Malibu took over on offense, senior tailback Sean Conrad answered with a 16-yard run for a touchdown, tying the score at 7. Conrad gained all 80 yards of the Sharks’ first drive, and at the end of the first quarter the contest remained tied.

The second quarter started similarly, with Fillmore scoring on a run to put the Flashes up 14-7. And then Conrad answered with a 53-yard touchdown run to tie the score. Fillmore took over, again, scoring on the ground with a little more than two minutes remaining in the half. The Malibu offense then took over, and after a 22-yard catch by senior tight end Justin Hale, senior kicker Jonny Palmer booted in a field goal, reducing Fillmore’s halftime lead to 21-17.

The second half saw a significant turning of the tide as Fillmore went on a 21-0 scoring drive in the third quarter as a result of a fumbled Malibu snap and an interception. In the middle of the quarter, Conrad limped off the field, and was unable to return to the game because of a calf contusion. He is hoping to play in the Sharks’ next game, but it is not a guarantee.

In the fourth quarter, Malibu made a valiant effort to come back, but, as the Sharks began to gain a rhythm with an 11-yard reception to tailback Jackson Whirt and with several second effort runs from Hale, a referee’s failure to blow a play dead after the receiver was down resulted in a Malibu fumble and another Fillmore touchdown. This bungled call, on top of the loss of Conrad, took a toll on the team’s momentum. But the Sharks nevertheless finished off the game strongly. The Malibu defense held Fillmore scoreless for the remainder of the game, and several players stepped up on offense, including Whirt, who scored on a 14-yard touchdown run, and senior Juan Anderson, who pulled in a 48-yard touchdown catch from junior quarterback Victor Tyler.

As the game came to a conclusion, several Malibu players had tears in their eyes as they saw their perfect season come to a halt in a game that included the loss of Conrad and the missed call from the officials. But head coach Ray Humphrey said those setbacks were not the only factors for the loss. Throughout the season, Humphrey warned the team to stay focused, but in the week leading up to the game, the players lost sight of their goals, the coach said.

“The effort was there, but the intensity was not,” Humphrey said. “When you’re 6-0, you have got to come out with a different attitude. You have to come out thinking that you’re going to be 7-0 and not that you’re 6-0 and everything is laid back.”

With the loss of Conrad, it is necessary that other players step up. The Sharks have seen improvement from several players, but given Conrad’s vital contributions, they will have to find a way to fill a gaping hole for as long as he is out. Notably, Conrad, despite leaving in the middle of the third quarter, finished with 150 yards, 130 in the first half, and two touchdowns.

“It was hard to lose him,” Tyler said. “Sean’s a big part of our team, but we had some guys step up. We saw Jackson [Whirt] make some nice plays. We saw Justin [Hale] make some nice plays. And it’s a learning experience”

The Sharks return to action Saturday for their homecoming game at 7 p.m. when they face Frazier Mountain (3-4) in a non-league game.

“We want to put this loss behind us,” Tyler said. “We’re disappointed about it, but we’re looking forward to moving on, and taking what we can from this.”