By Jeremy Balan
So much for that Turkey Day hangover the Mission High School football team was supposed to have in 2012.
After an underwhelming non-league slate, the Bears reinforced their claim as defending Academic Athletic Association champions with a convincing 46-13 road win over Lowell on Thursday in the league opener for both teams.
Mission (2-2, 1-0) racked up 509 yards, scored two defensive touchdowns and got another standout performance from senior quarterback Antoine Porter.
Porter had 260 yards and three touchdowns through the air on 12-of-20 passing, along with a game-high 104 rushing yards and another touchdown on just 10 carries.
“In the beginning, he wasn’t following through and he was under-throwing a little bit, but he’s just a playmaker,” said Mission head coach Joe Albano. “It’s fun to watch.”
The Bears jumped out to a 12-0 lead quickly in the first quarter, then hit an offensive lull in the second and only held a 12-6 lead at the half.
Then Porter went to work.
On the first drive of the third quarter, he connected with fellow senior Armani McFarland for a 50-yard score, then he hit wide receiver Demitrius Thibeaux with two touchdown passes on the first two drives of the fourth quarter to cap a run of 27 consecutive Mission points.
“We let up on them a little bit, thinking it would be easy because we ran through the first quarter 12-0,” Porter said. “We had to realize that they came out here to play just like we do. In the third quarter, we woke up and realized that we have to play hard every single down and not take anyone for granted.”
Porter’s favorite target was Thibeaux, who caught five passes for 107 yards, but the most encouraging sight for the Bears was the production of McFarland.
Hampered for much of the non-league season by an ankle injury, the talented transfer from Riordan ran for 94 yards on nine carries, had three receptions for 80 yards and returned a Lowell fumble 53 yards for a score in the third quarter.
“That was part of the plan, to get him feeling good about himself and letting him know he’s part of this team,” Albano said. “I know he can contribute and he plays a big part.”
Lowell (1-3, 0-1) struggled to hold down the Mission offense, but moved the ball relatively well with its double-wing rushing attack.
The Cardinals had three players with 50 yards or more on the ground, led by 71 from senior running back William Kim, but Lowell’s crucial misstep came in the final minute of the third quarter with Mission leading 27-6.
On fourth-and-goal from the Mission 5-yard line, Lowell quarterback Will Frankel ran an option sweep to the left with running back Michael McCarthy to on his hip, but the Bears defended the play perfectly. Frankel couldn’t get a pitch off, was stopped in the backfield and the Cardinals turned the ball over on downs, ending any thought of a Lowell comeback.
The most curious decision from the Lowell sideline was the choice not to run the single-wing, direct-snap offense with McCarthy at quarterback, which enabled the senior to run for 199 yards against the Bears in the AAA semifinals last season. McCarthy still ran for 56 yards and a score at wingback, but didn’t have the same impact.
Chan said the decision not to run the single-wing was due to missing personnel.
“It was a team issue,” said Lowell head coach Danny Chan. “Somebody was missing practice when they should have been here. When somebody isn’t around, it affects the whole team. I thought we could grind it out, but it was tough stopping a high-powered offense.”
As well as Mission played on offense, the scary fact for the rest of the AAA is that the Bears often played sloppily against Lowell and were still able to win handily. The Bears lost one fumble on a botched snap and nearly lost two others, Porter threw an ill-advised interception and Mission racked up 75 yards in penalties.
“We have a lot of playmakers out there, but everybody has to put in the work,” Porter said. “Everybody has to be willing to do it. That is the key. Everybody is capable, they just have to be willing to do it.”
M: 8:41 – Dreon McElroy 6-yard run (kick failed)
M: 1:36 – Antoine Porter 14-yard run (conversion failed)
L: 5:10 – Michael McCarthy 1-yard run (conversion failed)
M: 7:47 – Armani McFarland 50-yard pass from Porter (McElroy pass from Porter on conversion)
M: 5:38 – McFarland 53-yard fumble return (McElroy kick)
M: 10:30 – Demitrius Thibeaux 14-yard pass from Porter (kick failed)
M: 4:41 – Thibeaux 20-yard pass from Porter (kick failed)
L: 2:24 – William Kim 10-yard run (McCarthy kick)
M: 0:20 – Gabe Maldonado 73-yard interception return (McElroy kick)