By Tadzio Garcia
Questionable decisions resulted in the Huskies first road loss of the season, 54-42, at San Bernardino Valley College. East Los Angeles College was 3-0 on the road entering the game.
The first was replacing the state’s No.2-ranked quarterback, Aaron Cantu, with an injured back-up quarterback Adrian Diaz at the start of the game. The second was choosing not to go for field goals when in position. The third was a game-changing mistake by Robert McCovery with 2:52 left in the game.
Down 48-42, ELAC started an offensive series at their 25 yard line. On third down, Cantu connected to McCovery for a 14-yard gain and a first down at the 39 yard line.
Instead of stepping out of bounds, McCovery did a chicken wing move without tucking the ball for a half-yard gain. As he was falling in bounds, Valley’s Alvis Mohome forced a fumble and the Huskies couldn’t recover.
Kudos to Diaz who was coming off an East Los Angeles College record-tying six touchdown performance last week in a 40-34 win at Victor Valley.
Not so much for the coaches who decided to bench the state’s No. 2-ranked quarterback, Cantu, and start with an injured quarterback instead.
Diaz played with a similar injury to that of Cantu. The offense struggled with Diaz in the first quarter rushing for 10 yards. Diaz threw for 29 yards off of 3 of 7 attempts.
Diaz was replaced with Cantu at the start of the second quarter. Cantu responded to the call.
Down 21-0, and looking dead in the water, the Huskies offense rallied behind Cantu’s opening 13-play, 92-yard drive.
Cantu threw for 225 total yards In the second quarter off of 17 of 28 passes and four touchdowns. “Cantu is the real deal,” said play-by-play announcer Dennis Pauslon.
The defense gave up 17 points and the Huskies were down 38-28 at the half.
In three quarters, Cantu tossed 475 yards off of 34 of 63 attempts with six touchdowns and one interception.
Cantu tied an ELAC record with the six tosses for touchdowns. He also threw six TDs against West Los Angeles College earlier in the season. Diaz shares the record also Santiago Alvarez in a 1991 game against Antelope Valley College.
The third quarter was scoreless. However, on a fourth and 10 at the 17-yard line, ELAC went for a first down instead of going for a field goal that would have made it a one-score deficit.
“The coaches at East LA College obviously don’t have enough confidence in their field goal kicker,” said Paulson. This has been the story all season.
Field goal kicker Allan Infante’s point-after-touchdown kick looked like he’s capable of hitting field goals.
Valley opened the scoring in the fourth quarter off of a 5-yard quarterback sneak by Ethan Hillyer. Hillyer also rushed for a 60-yard gain in the 8-play drive.
Cantu responded with a two-play drive bringing the Huskies within 10 again, down 45-35.
Cantu mixed it up starting with a 26-yard Preston Oliver run. Cantu then went with a four-vertical route connecting on his fifth touchdown, a 39-yard pass to Willie Udofia.
Infante, who was six of six from the PAT line, connected. Paulson then said, “he has the foot…” A questionable call ensued.
With 5:40 left, the Huskies went for an onsides kick. Color commentator Ron Gueringer said he disagreed with the call.
“Why not kick it deep? You stop them and get the ball back. I don’t understand that call,” Gueringer said.
Preston Oliver was the top rusher for the Huskies gaining 87 yards from 11 attempts.
McCovery caught seven passes for 131 yards with two touchdowns followed by Bryan-Munoz Alvarez who grabbed 113 yards off eight catches and one touchdown. Carlos Portillo caught 84 yards off of six catches and scored one touchdown.
The special teams had a great night. Adding to Infante’s perfect night was Eduardo Rodriguez kicking four punts for an average of 43.2 yards. Two long kick-off returns were run by CJ Dudley (38 yards) and Roosevelt Buck (31 yards).
Shawn Esparza led the defense with 18 tackles followed by Dujuawn Jones (11) and Hector Cazales (10).
With the loss, the Huskies eliminated any hopes of advancing to a bowl game by winning the Mountain Conference. They are however mathematically still in the hunt for an at-large bid according to Head Coach Steve Mojarro.
ELAC drops to 4-3 overall and 1-3 in conference play while Valley improves to 4-3, 3-1.
The Huskies will host a tough Chaffey team Saturday at 6 p.m.