Trailing 23-3 with 10:41 remaining in the second quarter, Malibu was facing insurmountable odds considering that its opponent, Santa Paula, had dominated the game thus far and the Sharks were flailing in their attempt to stop one of the state’s leading rushers.
Behind a determined effort from each player donning the teal and black, Malibu came roaring back only to lose to the Cardinals, 26-24, last Thursday evening at Malibu High.
Malibu quarterback Nico Basile completed 29 of 47 passes for 433 yards while teammate Indiana McAlpine caught 17 passes for 260 yards. The tandem connected for three touchdowns. Senior Jordan Newt had eight receptions for 117 yards for MHS.
“We all pulled together,” said McAlpine, who is a junior. “The defense held tight and the offense came out and performed. We just fell short.”
On the defensive side, the Sharks were led by junior Alec Stevenson (14 tackles), senior Matt Vincent (eight tackles, three sacks) and sophomore Trevor Simonian (nine tackles).
The inspiring rally bodes well for Malibu coming into this week, as it hosts Grace Brethren (9-0, 6-0 in the Frontier League) on Friday at 6:30 p.m. in the Sharks’ Homecoming game.
“We played our butts off,” Malibu coach Ray Humphrey said. “Santa Paula is a good team who has put up a lot of points. They’ve run over people this season. We made that comeback and held them to three points in the second half. It was amazing. I wish we got the victory but I am so proud of my guys. We battled tonight.”
Less than two minutes into the second quarter, Malibu (3-6, 1-4) barely seemd to have a pulse. Missed tackles, bad snaps and an inefficient offense led to a 20-point deficit. Instead of packing their bags and calling it a night, the Sharks regrouped and made an improbable rally.
McAlpine jumpstarted the rally by snaring a six-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone with 53 seconds remaining in the first half. Basile put the ball in the perfect spot for McAlpine to out-leap the Cardinal defender and cut Santa Paula’s lead to 23-10.
The Basile-McAlpine play was just a foreshadowing of what was to come in the second half.
The Santa Monica transfers pumped life into the Sharks offense when Basile drove Malibu down the field on the opening possession of the third quarter for a touchdown. He completed five of eight passes for 71 yards and found McAlpine for a 15-yard scoring strike.
After Santa Paula (5-4, 3-2) extended the lead to 26-17, Malibu came back again riding Basile’s strong arm and McAlpine’s clutch hands. A 44-yard touchdown pass from Basile to McAlpine with 3:11 left in the third quarter made it 26-24 in favor of the Cardinals.
Meanwhile, Stevenson, Vincent and Simonian were ransacking the Cardinal’s offense with tackles on nearly every play.
Stevenson is averaging 13.7 tackles a game, including season-highs of 18 versus Santa Clara on two occasions. The human wrecking ball was at his best again as he helped the Sharks’ defense limit Santa Paula star running back Noah Magana to only 58 yards in the second half.
Magana finished the contest with 191 yards on 34 carries and is averaging 233.4 yards per game, the third-best in California.
Vincent played with unbridled enthusiasm while Simonian flew around with endless energy and youthful charisma. Simonian ranks third on the team with 55 tackles and had a season-best 14 tackles against Santa Paula in an earlier contest this season.
“He has grown up a lot,” Humphrey said of the blossoming Simonian, a 5-foot-9, 165-pound strong safety. “He has stepped up as a sophomore and has been playing like that all year. Nothing fazes him. He absorbs what the coaches tell him and he goes for it.”
“It’s been a great experience. I’ve improved a lot on my tackling and the way I approach football,” said Simonian. “I’ve become a much better football player playing against older guys who are more experienced. I’ve faced good competition and it’s helped me become tougher. I’m always on my toes and always alert just trying to make plays to help my team win.”
The two teams played a scoreless fourth quarter with Malibu failing to convert on two field goal opportunities. Yet, the comeback proved to be a morale booster.
“That comeback demonstrates how we work as one team and one unit,” Simonian said. “We don’t keep our heads down but we keep them held high. We always believe we can win and always give our best effort. I’m proud of the team for that.”