By Josh Levine
Mission High School secured the top seed in the AAA playoffs with a 50-38 win over Balboa High School on Saturday at School of the Arts.
With the loss, the Buccaneers (3-7, 3-3) must beat Burton next week to secure the fourth and final playoff spot.
Should the Buccaneers win that game, they will face Mission again in two weeks.
“We’re a playoff capable team, but we kill ourselves out there,” said Buccaneers head coach Alvaro Carvajal. “Those small mistakes can destroy a team.”
Buccaneers quarterback Kerati Apilakvanichakit completed 22-of-40 passes for 325 yards and four touchdowns, but his two interceptions were returned for touchdowns by the Mission (6-3, 6-0).
The first interception came from Jaleel Stancil, who returned the pick for a 38-yard score in the second quarter.
The second came as the Buccaneers attempted a late fourth-quarter comeback down 44-30, but Apilakvanichakit was intercepted by linebacker Laron Davis who caught the ball after it bounced off the chest of receiver Christian Pulusian.
Davis ran the ball back for 15 yards for the touchdown and sealed a Bears’ victory.
“Both teams had some turnovers and we got lucky with them,” said Mission head coach Joe Albano. “Those interceptions we returned for touchdowns really put away the game for us.”
Mission gained 138 yards through the air and 155 on the ground and running backs Stancil and Davonta Gaines each had two touchdowns rushing.
Apilakvanichakit was sacked eight times by the Bears, most of which came from corner blitzes that the offensive line did not pick up.
“We beat ourselves out there,” Carvajal said. “Apilakvanichakit’s play was up and down, but he definitely gave maximum effort. All I have to say is that we can’t give up 21 points on turnovers and expect to win.”
Albano was disappointed with the play of the Bears’ defense, which has been the team’s strong point this season.
“Part of the problem today is that we really let them get back in the game,” Albano said. “Our goal was not to give up any big plays, and we gave up a couple. Next week we will be working on all of that and preparing for the playoffs.”
M: 11:07 — Davonta Gaines 29-yard run (Conversion failed)
B: 6:12 — Abraham Musalam 33-yard pass from Kerati Apilakvanichakit (Eric Sutton run on conversion)
M: 4:58 — Alec Tatum 73-yard pass from Davon Hargraves (Algeron Malbrough pass from Hargraves on conversion)
M: 11:23 — Jaleel Stancil 38-yard interception return (Conversion failed)
M: 0:34 — Gaines 7-yard run (Gaines run on conversion)
B: 0:04 — Andres Arellano 59-yard pass from Apilakvanichakit (Conversion failed)
B: 11:30 — Greg Warren 49-yard run (Apilakvanichakit run on conversion)
M: 9:11 — Stancil 17-yard run (Stancil run on conversion)
M: 8:18 — Stancil 7-yard run (Gaines run on conversion)
B: 3:10 — Christian Pulusian 6-yard pass from Apilakvanichakit (Sutton pass from Apilakvanichakit on conversion)
M: 5:12 — Laron Davis 15-yard interception return (Conversion failed)
B: 3:29 — Sutton 18-yard pass from Apilakvanichakit (Pulusian run on conversion)