Following last week’s close loss against Saint Monica, the Malibu High School football team returned to its home field on Saturday to play Bellarmine-Jefferson High School. Playing without their starting quarterback and running back, the Sharks (1-3) suffered more injuries in Saturday’s 39-14 loss to the Guards.
The game began on a high note for the Sharks’ defense, as the unit forced an early interception during the Guards’ opening drive. Brennan Cassone recorded the interception, making it the fourth pass that he has picked off this season. However, the Sharks’ offense struggled. On the first drive, Malibu was able to advance the ball, but two fumbles (both recovered by the Sharks) forced the team to punt.
The Guards delivered the first score of the game on a touchdown pass from quarterback Chris Issakanian to receiver Kevin Yuenyongsakul with four minutes left in the first quarter. The Sharks then crafted a scoring drive of their own. Led by senior Saadiq Hassan, the rushing attack worked well against the Guards’ defense. The drive concluded with a five-yard touchdown run by Cassone with three minutes left in the first quarter. Hassan, who was named the starter in place of the injured Matt Mason (who went down last week with an ankle injury), was one of the bright spots in the Sharks’ loss.
“Saadiq carried the ball well,” Head coach Ray Humphrey said. “One of the bright spots of the game was getting to watch Saadiq run the ball.”
Hassan will most likely get the majority of the carries in Mason’s absence, which as of now looks like a good number of games. Junior Cooper Smart will get some work as well.
The Sharks suffered their first injury of the contest in the second quarter when junior defensive and offensive lineman Evan Anthony was forced to leave the game with a knee injury. The Guards then took a 14-7 lead off of a 20-yard touchdown at the beginning of the quarter.
While the Sharks continued to run the ball well on offense, mistakes once again put them in unfavorable positions. During the execution of an end-around play, junior receiver Nathan Dowler was stripped of the ball by a defensive back Micah Shirley, who then ran the ball 47 yards for a touchdown, putting the Guards up 20-7.
Following another Shark punt on offense, the Malibu defense forced another turnover, as junior Devon Baldinger recovered a fumble. However, during the play, Guards’ receiver Kevin Yuenyongsakul was injured and could not get off of the field. Play was suspended while an ambulance came on the field for him.
The Sharks finished the half strong with a 39-yard touchdown pass from Cassone to junior receiver Hunter Johnson, reducing the deficit to 20-14. But before the half concluded, the Sharks suffered yet another injury with senior linebacker David Sandborg being forced to the sidelines with a knee injury that would keep him from returning to the game.
The second half opened on a bad note for the Sharks. On their opening drive, Cassone threw an interception in the red zone. He was also forced to leave the game because of a concussion. Sophomore Apollo Loomis took over as quarterback. The Guards then delivered another score, as Micah Shirley scored on a 77-yard touchdown run, putting the Guards up 26-14 with three minutes left in the third quarter. The Sharks continued to defeat themselves as the fourth quarter started when a snap on a punt went over punter Loomis’ head and gave the Guards excellent field position. After a fake field goal that turned into a touchdown, the Guards were up 32-14.
After suffering many injuries and mistakes, the Sharks must put this loss behind them and move on to the next game, with quarterback Chris Konkol hopefully returning from injury. However, the Sharks know that to overcome their current circumstances, players are going to have to step up and fill the shoes of the injured starters.
“I hope we have Chris back for next week,” Humphrey said. “Brennan should be fine, and we’ll see what the diagnosis is for Evan and David, but guys are going to have to start stepping up.”
The Sharks will play an away game Flintridge Prep next on Friday night.