By Jim Tortolano/Garden Grove Journal
Josh Webb, Garden Grove High’s all-purpose speedster, made some spectacular crossfield tackles last Friday against Pacifica High School, racing headlong along the gridiron at the Argo stadium to grab Mariner ballcarriers from behind.
However, that was the problem. The Mariners were generally ahead of the Argonauts in the battle of unbeatens and ended up posting a convincing 42-27 victory.
After a closely fought 10 minutes in which the two teams battled to a 14-14 deadlock, the Mariners took control and almost salted the game away by halftime with a 35-14 edge that was expanded to 42-14 early in the third quarter.
To their credit, the Argos made a strong second half comeback and closed to within 15 with a little over six minutes to play. But an onside kick failed and the Mariners were able to run out the clock and post the win.
“It went about as I expected,” said Mariner coach Marcello Guiliano after his team finished its non-league season at 4-0. “We knew they weren’t the kind of team to give up at the end.”
The contest between the former Garden Grove League rivals had been billed as a kind of unofficial city championship. If so the Mariners get to hoist the pennant, thanks in large part to Cody Johnson, who ran for two touchdowns and 240 yards.
“He comes to play,” said Guiliano, but pointed out that on the football field no man is an island. “What makes him so effective? Well, if you’re defensing us, who do you concentrate on? Number four? Number 11? Number 20?” he said, referring to Alex Duarte, Joel Willis and Johnson.
The M’s struck first with a 41-yard romp by Willis at the 7:19 mark, but the Argos tied it at 7 when Webb, as quarterback, threw a 21-yard TD pass to Tyren Carter.
Johnson put Pacifica back into the lead with a three-yard rush at 3:19, capping a drive highlighted by a 48-yard kickoff return by Trent Langham and four straight carries by Johnson.
Grove came right back, though, capping a 10-play, 60-yard drive with a three-yard keeper by Webb, who would finish with 42 yards rushing and 77 receiving.
The ground shifted in the second quarter. The Mariners advanced to the Argonaut 46-yard line, where Johnson raced for another touchdown and a 21-14 lead.
A turning point in the game came at 6:23 when the Argos lost a fumble at the Mariner 48. Two plays later Johnson ran 43 yards to the Grove 1-yard-line (grabbed from behind by the fleet Webb), and then Michael Estrada went up the middle for a 28-14 edge.
Then, for the first time in the game, the Argonauts’ hurry-up offense sputtered. Grove went three-and-out, and the M’s mounted a nine-play, 53-yard drive culminating in a 19-yard TD pass from Mario Nava (197 yards passing, and two TDs) to Albert Hughes that made it 35-14 with 1:23 left in the first half.
Pacifica upped its lead to 42-14 early in the third quarter on a seven-play, 55-yard drive. Nava threw an 11-yard pass to Willis for the score.
By now, though, Jovani Duran was back in the quarterback spot for the red-and-white. He put on a bit of a passing clinic with his accurate throws; he would finish with 184 yards gaining on 12-of-13 passing. A 40-yard strike to Webb made it 42-20 (the extra point was wide left) at the 5:47 mark.
Midway through the fourth quarter, the Argonauts stirred again. Duran’s pinpoint passing moved Grove to the 35, where he lofted a scoring pass to Webb that brought Grove to within a couple of scores with 6:06 to play.
It wasn’t enough. The Mariners recovered the inevitable onside kick and marched downfield, eating up yardage and the clock. In a nice show of sportsmanship, the Pacifica quarterback took a knee on the last two snaps, even though his team was just a few yards from the Grove end zone.
Now, the Mariners have to look forward to more rough contests as they begin Empire League play tonight (Thursday) visiting a powerful Tustin team. “To play in the Empire League, you have to play tough,” said Guiliano. “For one thing, we have to defend the deep pass better.”
The Argos, now 2-1, also have a tough assignment Friday night. They’ll host a Katella team that’s 2-1 after a loss to a strong Loara team last week. Grove begins GGL action on Oct. 14 against Santiago (2-1) in a game that could decide the league title.