The Malibu High School football season ended Friday night as the Sharks were defeated by the Linfield Christian Lions in the quarterfinals of the Division XIII playoffs, 28-20.
The game was a seesaw battle from the start as the Sharks took the opening kickoff and marched downfield with their customary ball control offense. The drive was highlighted by a 36-yard run by running back Andrew Heric. As the Sharks were poised to score with the ball on the Lions 14-yard line, a pass from quarterback Johnnie O’Neal was completed to Garret Brizendine at the two-yard line where, in a disputed call, the officials ruled the ball was knocked from Brizendine’s hands before he got to the end zone and rolled out of the end zone for a touchback.
After the Sharks defense stopped Linfield on their ensuing drive, Malibu drove down the field once more, this time capping the drive with a touchdown run by Heric to take a 6-0 lead.
The Lions took Malibu’s kickoff and began a drive of their own, counting on their misdirection offense to move the ball with short running plays. Just when it looked as though Linfield would score, a fumble of a snap to quarterback Drake Fages was recovered by Malibu’s Kieran Doody. The Sharks drive looked as though it was stalled, but facing fourth down and one yard to go for a first down, Heric stunned the Lions as he broke through their line and rambled 53 yards for a second touchdown. The two point conversion put Malibu ahead by a score of 14-0.
Linfield answered the challenge quickly, as Fages completed a 68-yard pass to a wide-open Ryan Chamberlain for a touchdown to cut the Malibu lead in half.
The Sharks’ next drive stalled and resulted in a punt to Linfield, who also were unable to move the ball. With time winding down in the second quarter, the Lions were forced to punt. Running back Miles Edman, unfamiliar with returning punts, was sent into the game to field the kick, but misjudged the punt that hit his arm inside the Malibu 10-yard line. The ball was recovered by the Lions who quickly scored to tie the game.
The second half of the game turned out to be as exciting as the first half as Linfield used nearly the entire third quarter to march downfield with tough runs by running back Michael Rainey to score another touchdown to take a 21-14 lead. With their backs to the wall, the Sharks responded on their next drive, mixing runs by Edman and Heric to move downfield, capping the drive with Heric’s third touchdown of the game. The extra point try was no good and Malibu trailed the Lions 21-20.
Linfield went right back to work, with Rainey running the ball and using up the remaining time on the clock, but a fumble inside the Malibu 20-yard line gave Malibu a last chance to win with 2:45 left in the game. With little time left, Malibu coach Rich Lawson had to turn from his successful running attack and called long passing plays to try to move the ball downfield. After two incomplete attempts, the third down pass was intercepted by Linfield and returned for a touchdown. The Lions held a 28-20 lead as time ran out on the Sharks.
The Malibu Sharks enjoyed their best-ever season this year, finishing with a 9-1 regular season record and scoring their first-ever playoff victory to get to the division quarter-finals. With many returning players, the Sharks look forward to another winning season in 2005.