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Big-Play Capability the Early Season Key for Trabuco Hills

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Big-Play Capability the Early Season Key for Trabuco Hills

Trabuco Hills High School's running back Taylor Bowie (35) during a home game against San Juan Hills in Mission Viejo, Calif., on Aug. 24, 2022. (Robin Gray Photography)

Dan Wood

Dan Wood

9/5/2023

Updated: 9/5/2023

For all the positive qualities a successful football team can possess, the ability to create big plays might be right near the top of the list.
Trabuco Hills High School has provided living proof through its first two games this season, and as a result, will carry a 2–0 record into a Sept. 8 game at Irvine.
After recovering two fumbles while building a three-touchdown lead in the opening seven minutes of a 31–28 win over visiting Huntington Beach on Aug. 24, the Mustangs were at it again Sept. 1 in a 31–21 victory at Crean Lutheran.
Trabuco Hills turned a botched punt snap into a go-ahead touchdown from senior Ben Holland with 21 seconds left in the first half, and then wrested control of a game that featured five lead changes with huge defensive and offensive plays in the fourth quarter.
“It was back and forth,” Mustangs Coach Mark Nolan told The Epoch Times. “They’d answer. We’d answer. It was just a well-played, great high school football game.”
Trabuco Hills High School's wide receiver Ben Holland (3) during a home game against Tesoro in Mission Viejo, Calif., on Oct. 6, 2022. (Robin Gray Photography)

Trabuco Hills High School's wide receiver Ben Holland (3) during a home game against Tesoro in Mission Viejo, Calif., on Oct. 6, 2022. (Robin Gray Photography)

Ultimately, it was Trabuco Hills’ ability to come up with game-changing moments that made the difference.
With Crean Lutheran having battled back from the special-teams mishap late in the first half to take a 21–17 third-quarter lead on 40- and 23-yard touchdown passes from senior Jeremiah Finaly, the Mustangs stepped up on defense when it mattered most.
The Saints had driven from their own 19-yard line to a first-and-goal just more than three minutes into the fourth quarter and were only 8 yards away from a potential score that would have made it a two-possession game.
Instead, after an illegal-procedure penalty set Crean Lutheran back to the 13, Trabuco Hills senior Jalen McDowell stripped Finaly of the ball while sacking the quarterback, enabling teammate Joey Carlos to recover at the 29.
“You knew Jalen was going to bring it and make a play at some point, and Jalen McDowell made a really big play,” Mr. Nolan said. “He had two fumble recoveries last week. He’s a big-play guy.”
Trabuco Hills High School's outside linebacker Jalen McDowell (40) during a game at Crean Lutheran in Irvine, Calif., on Sept. 1, 2023. (Robin Gray Photography)

Trabuco Hills High School's outside linebacker Jalen McDowell (40) during a game at Crean Lutheran in Irvine, Calif., on Sept. 1, 2023. (Robin Gray Photography)

The Mustangs immediately drove 71 yards in seven plays to regain the lead on senior Taylor Bowie’s 2-yard touchdown run, and then let the defense go back to work.
Led by McDowell, who earlier had recovered a Crean Lutheran fumble, Bowie, and seniors Ryan Manda and Riley Pinvidic, Trabuco Hills stopped the Saints on downs at their own 34. Four plays later, on a gutsy fourth-and-7 call from the 31, senior quarterback Jacob Perry hit Bowie with a screen pass that resulted in the clinching touchdown.
Though Bowie lost control of the ball either just before or just as he broke the plane of the goal line, the touchdown stood, giving him three for the game to go along with 101 yards rushing on 21 carries.
“It was a huge win,” Bowie told The Epoch Times. “It really tested us, how we can come back from being down. It’s coming together as a family. It’s deeper than just being a team. We break bread together. We practice, practice hard, push each other in practice, and it shows in the game. That’s brotherhood.”
Trabuco Hills High School's running back Taylor Bowie (35) during a home game against Huntington Beach in Mission Viejo, Calif., on Aug. 24, 2023. (Robin Gray Photography)

Trabuco Hills High School's running back Taylor Bowie (35) during a home game against Huntington Beach in Mission Viejo, Calif., on Aug. 24, 2023. (Robin Gray Photography)

Holland, who called his scoop-and-score “candy” after he ran the final 5 yards, also referred to what he termed “brotherly love.”
“We’ve been grinding all summer,” he said. “We’re just never out of it. Everyone was battling. Everyone was in it, and we just knew there was only one way to do it. We had to come out with the win.”
Throwing mostly to junior wide receivers Ryan Luce and Alex Kiernan, Perry provided efficient quarterback play, completing nine of 12 passes for 101 yards with no turnovers.
Bowie, who has rushed for more than 100 yards in back-to-back games, and junior Maxwell Hales formed an effective running-back tandem behind a solid offensive line, giving every indication that the Mustangs have the ingredients for a consistently effective offense.
Defensively, there is no doubt room for growth in terms of surrendering fewer points and less yardage. The propensity for creating and capitalizing on turnovers, including a late interception by senior Kenji Gonzales, goes a long way toward mitigating any such shortcomings, however.
“We play team football,” Mr. Nolan said. “We feed off each other in all three phases. We play starters on the special teams, starters from O and D. We platoon like a college program. We have a coaching staff like a college program, so it allows us to play at a very high level and have a very deep playbook right on through a game.”
Dan Wood

Dan Wood

Author

Dan Wood is a community sports reporter based in Orange County, California. He has covered sports professionally for some 43 years, spending nearly three decades in the newspaper industry and 14 years in radio. He is an avid music fan, with a strong lean toward country and classic rock.

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