Historic home opener for Sharks

Victor Tyler gets the ball past a defender to tight end Justin Hale. Photo by Seth and Sam Rubinroit

The Sharks are 2-0 after a victory. They are the first Malibu High School varsity football team to win the first two games of the season.

By Sam Rubinroit / Sports Staff Writer

The Malibu High School varsity football team had a highly successful season home opener on Friday, defeating rival Bellarmine-Jefferson, 23-8.

The Sharks opened the game strong, stopping the Guards from making a fourth and goal conversion. Malibu’s running game was nearly unstoppable, starting with the first offensive play of the game where senior tailback Sean Conrad returned the ball for a 95-yard touchdown run. At the end of the first quarter, the Sharks led 6-0.

In the second quarter, the Sharks again stopped the Guards on fourth down, but lost the ball on an interception. With 2:30 remaining in the half, Malibu regained the ball, and after consecutive 20- and 15-yard runs by Conrad, junior quarterback Victor Tyler ran the ball in for a five-yard touchdown, putting the Sharks up 13-0 at the half.

In the second half, the Sharks put the final nail in the coffin early. After receiving the kickoff, on the second play, Conrad ran the ball for 65 yards, setting up an easy five yard touchdown run-his second of the day.

As the game wound down, disaster struck as junior safety Ryan Houge left the game with a broken arm after stopping the Guards on the one-foot line. The Guards went on to score their first touchdown of the game, cutting the Sharks’ lead to 20-8. In the fourth quarter, with a fourth and long, the Sharks brought out senior kicker Jonny Palmer, who nailed a 24-yard field goal, the final score for either team in the contest.

The Sharks’ victory improves their record to 2-0, and makes them the first football team in school history to enter the third game undefeated. The Sharks had come off of a hard-fought win over Channel Islands, 10-7. Winning the second game over Bellarmine-Jefferson had a special meaning for the Sharks, as they have lost to the Guards in the past two years. After the victory, head coach Ray Humphrey addressed his team, and congratulated them on the win. “They deserve it, and they’ve worked hard for it,” he said.

Despite the victory, Humphrey understands the need to stay focused and not let their early success get to the player’s heads. “We are going to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” he said When asked how he will keep them focused, the answer was simple. “Run ’em. We’re going to keep them running.”

Humphrey made special note of Conrad’s game with an astounding 313 yard on 26 carries and two touchdowns. “Sean has definitely carried us,” Tyler said. “He had an amazing performance today.”

Humphrey also mentioned the offensive line, led by juniors Jesse Conrad, Nat Flor, Kyle Parker, Hap Henry, and seniors Niall Velasquez and Austin Rowan. The Sharks’ offense this year will revolve mainly around the running game, with their strong offensive line clearing the way for tailbacks Sean Conrad and Jackson Wirht, who, along with fullback Jake Wisnicki, make up a very formidable backfield.

The team appears to have made up for the loss of a strong senior class last year, which included quarterback J.P. O’Fallon, wide receivers Graham Ellis and Charles Vines, and defensive stoppers Marcus Robbins, Sean Boylan, Mitchell Rathner and Milo Gibson. Despite the loss of so many experienced players, Coach Humphrey is not worried. “Sean [Conrad] has stepped up; he had 313 yards on the ground. We make up for it with balance. We can pass, we can throw, and Victor Tyler got in there and he stepped it up a notch.”

The Sharks’ passing game is largely undeveloped, with quarterback Victor Tyler new to the position, having spent last season as a wide receiver and defensive back. Nevertheless, the team seems to have faith in Tyler. As Sean Conrad put it, “he’s money. I love him.” Tyler connected five of nine passes against the Guards for 55 yards, with one interception. The Sharks look to pass mainly to senior tight end Justin Hale, with twin junior receivers Nate and Eli Redman often as back-up choices. Tyler seems confident in his new position, and has high hopes for the team. “The team’s worked really hard, we’ve worked all summer, and now we hope to make it 3-0,” he said.

The Sharks’ defense looked strong against Bell Jeff, but the loss of Houge will force a player out of his regular position, and the Sharks main vulnerability is depth, with 23 total players, minus Houge. The Malibu secondary looked strong, led by Hale and Sean Conrad at linebacker, and defensive back Mario Johnson, but they had some trouble stopping the Guards’ deep passes.

The Sharks junior varsity squad also played their home season opener, suffering a loss, 30-3, on a field goal by Jordan Shanley. This leaves the squad with a record of 0-2, as they face Viewpoint at home Oct. 4, at 11 a.m.

The varsity team will be back in action Friday when it faces St. Genevieve on the road, and when it returns home on Oct. 3 against Viewpoint at 7 p.m. Time will tell how the Sharks will fare, as they look to recapture the magic of last season when they made it to the post season for the first time since 2004. “I want to go to the playoffs, and beyond,” said Humphrey. “We are going to take it one game at a time, because, in football, you only get ten games, and you can’t look too far ahead from where you are at.”