Injury-plagued Sharks drop third straight

Malibu can still clinch a spot in the postseason with a win next week.

By Seth Rubinroit / Sports Staff Writer

The Malibu High School football team lost several key players and its third straight game on Friday in a 26-7 loss to the Santa Paula Cardinals on a windy night in Malibu. It was an emotional but disappointing Senior Night for the Sharks (6-3) as it marked the last football game the seniors will play at home.

Malibu dug itself into a hole early in the game, falling behind 14-0 by the end of the first quarter. Then, early in the second quarter, the team lost starting quarterback Victor Tyler and star running back Sean Conrad to injuries on the same series. Backup quarterback Austin Scott did not waste the opportunity he was presented. He completed several passes to tight end Justin Hale and threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Juan Anderson in the corner of the end zone, making the score 20-7 going into halftime.

In the second half, several fumbles and an interception kept the Sharks from scoring again. Santa Paula (7-2) scored one final time, but defensive back Mario Johnson knocked down a pass that kept the Cardinals from completing a two-point conversion.

Highlights of the game for Malibu included a wind-aided 70-yard punt by Jonny Palmer in the fourth quarter, a tackle by Hale and Jesse Conrad that kept the Cardinals from scoring on a fourth and goal from the one-yard line in the second quarter and a fumble recovery by Jake Wisnicki on the one-yard line that prevented the Cardinals from scoring in the fourth quarter.

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After the game, the seniors huddled on their home field for the final time. Seniors Conrad, Johnson, Palmer, Anderson, Hale, Wisnicki, Niall Velasquez, Brennan Lowe, Austin Rowen and Joe Rosenthal have been critical to restoring a winning culture to Malibu football, first with the Sharks making the playoffs last season, and then by winning their first six games this season.

“It has obviously been great,” Hale said about his time on the football team. “It is too bad to have three losses in a row, but we are going to bounce back next week and get a win.”

For fourth-year head coach Ray Humphrey, this group of seniors is the first he has coached from freshman through senior year at Malibu.

“This group of seniors is amazing,” said Humphrey, choking up. “Words cannot express what I feel for these guys.”

The game was marred by injuries that significantly thinned the Sharks’ depth. Hours before the game, Hale had to have fluid drained from his knee. Conrad sprained the MCL in his left knee during the game, in addition to missing multiple days of school earlier in the week due to an illness. He is not expected to play in the regular season finale or the potential postseason. Tyler broke two bones in his left arm, which will force him to miss the rest of the season. Rowen was slowed by symptoms of the flu. Hap Henry left the game with a right arm injury. Safety Ryan Houge did not play because of a concussion.

Because he left the game in the second quarter with an injury, Conrad recorded only 26 rushing yards, his lowest total of the season, and he did not score a touchdown in a game for the first time this season. However, coming into the contest, Conrad was ranked eighth in the nation in yards per game, with an average of 231. His 95-yard touchdown earlier in the season ranks as the third-longest run in the nation. Also, his 1,848 total rushing yards is the second-highest total in the state, according to MaxPreps.com. Conrad is also tied for seventh in the state in rushing touchdowns with 19.

Malibu must win on Friday at Villanova Prep to secure a spot in the postseason. The Sharks are tied with Grace Brethren for third place in the Frontier League with a 1-2 league record. The top three teams in each league make the playoffs, and the Sharks hold the tiebreaker over Grace Brethren because Malibu beat them 51-50 last month. If Villanova Prep (4-4 overall, 0-3 in the league) defeats Malibu on Friday, then the two teams would tie for the season, with Villanova Prep winning the tie-breaker

“We are going to change a few things since we know Austin [Scott] can throw the ball,” said Humphrey about Friday’s game plan.

The game begins at 7 p.m.

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

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