Balboa’s defensive line tried to drag Davon Hargraves to the ground as he barreled up the middle eight yards from the end zone. Hargraves appeared to be stopped three yards short of the goal line, but he kept churning his feet, and punched it in for Mission High School’s first touchdown of the game.
“I just put my head down and went,” Hargraves said. “I trusted my blockers and went for it.”
Hargraves scored in similar fashion again in the fourth quarter of the Mission Bears’ 16-0 victory over Balboa High School on Saturday. And in between, Hargraves dominated. The senior quarterback rushed for 110 yards and passed for 200 yards to lead his squad to their second consecutive shutout.
“He’s one of our best players,” Mission head coach Joe Albano said. “We’re lucky to have him on the team.”
The two squads appeared locked in a defensive struggle early in the game, with neither managing to gain much yardage. But Mission quickly figured out Balboa’s blitz defense and used it to their advantage.
“Their defensive scheme is they like to blitz their three backers, and I kind of knew that going in,” Albano said. “We tried something a little different in the beginning to see if we could get away with it, but once we spread them out we knew that would work better.”
Mission dominated the ball on both offense and defense in a game where the Bears got 18 first downs and Balboa only managed three. But the Bears’ inability to hang on to the ball kept the score down.
Mission turned the ball over five times, including a fumble by Hargraves that aborted a tremendous scoring opportunity. In the third quarter, Hargraves ran up the middle on first and goal, but fumbled on the goal line, turning the ball over at a time when it was still a one-possession game.
“It was definitely sloppy,” Albano said. “I felt like we should have scored more points, but we just made some mistakes. There’s a lot of stuff we have to clean up, but we’ll take the win and move on from it.”
But even with Mission’s turnovers, Balboa showed no inclination to score against the Bears’ swarming defense.
Senior defensive back Antoine Porter contributed two interceptions, including one in the third quarter that he ran back for 30 yards, squelching a Balboa attack. Middle linebacker London Reynolds contributed two consecutive sacks and a forced fumble in the third quarter. And senior offensive end Darius Grays added a sack, and for the second week in a row managed to force a fumble, snatching the ball out of the grasp of Balboa’s leading running back, Luis Moran.
The Bears also managed to get a rare safety in the third quarter when Brandon Nguyen sacked Balboa quarterback Andres Arellano in the end zone.
“Their defense did a pretty good job and that’s why they were successful,” Balboa head coach Alvaro Carvajal said. “Mission has a lot of guys that can fly out there. I’m proud of the effort my guys put forward.”
For Mission, the victory was more than another check in the win column. After Balboa upset Mission in the semifinals of the Academic Athletic Association league playoffs last season, the Bears were happy to get the chip off their shoulder.
“In practice we just all got together and knew we were going to beat this team,” said junior receiver Algeron Malbrough, who contributed 80 yards in receptions to the win. “We just felt like we had to get our revenge.”