By John Baker
Saturday’s Academic Athletic Association matchup between Balboa High School and Lowell came down to which team could best handle pressure.
Both teams applied it constantly, but it was Lowell’s ability to slip away from the pressure that gave the Cardinals a 34-16 victory at Balboa.
They key play came with just over 4 minutes left in the game and Lowell up by a single touchdown. With Balboa mounting a defensive rush, halfback Michael McCarthy took a handoff, then threw a perfect spiral to wide receiver Paul Cho, who took it 33 yards up the right sideline for a touchdown and a 28-16 lead.
“We’ve been practicing it for a while now,” McCarthy said. “Because we were only up by a touchdown, [head coach Danny Chan] figured they’d be aggressive trying to get a stop and we took advantage of that.”
After stopping the Buccaneers on the ensuing possession, Lowell (3-3, 2-1) called the exact same play on the next series, setting up a 4-yard touchdown run by McCarthy, the senior’s third score of the game.
Balboa (1-5, 1-2) made it a game seconds into the fourth quarter when Antoine Crecy’s 17-yard touchdown run – made with at least one Lowell defender having a hand on him the whole carry – cut the Lowell lead to 22-16. Crecy, who also scored on a 4-yard run just before halftime, led Balboa with 88 yards on 17 carries.
But when it counted in the fourth quarter, neither Crecy’s running or the passing of quarterback Eli Smoot (10-of-29 passing for 126 yards and one interception) could get a first down on the Buccaneers’ final two possessions.
“We just didn’t finish today,” said Balboa coach Alvaro Carvajal. “A couple plays affected us offensively and we just couldn’t get it done.”
Lowell got on the board first with two scores in the second quarter. William Kim, the game’s leading rusher with 126 yards on 15 carries, crossed the goal line with a 1-yard dash 5:17 before the halftime break. Four minutes later, quarterback Will Frankel hit McCarthy with a 6-yard pass to put the Cardinals up 14-0.
The Buccaneers tallied a sack and forced two Lowell turnovers before halftime, but couldn’t continue the pressure.
“The guys were on at first, then Lowell started taking care of the ball” Carvajal said. “We didn’t play up to where we know we can play up to in the second half.”
L: 5:17 – William Kim 1-yard run (Kim run on conversion)
L: 1:00 – Michael McCarthy 6-yard pass from Will Frankel (conversion failed)
B: 0:08 – Antoine Crecy 4-yard run (Kendrick Martin fumble recovery on conversion)
L: 1:52 – McCarthy 10-yard run (Frankel run on conversion)
B: 11:26 – Crecy 17-yard run (Eli Smoot run on conversion)
L: 4:10 – Paul Cho 33-yard pass from McCarthy (conversion failed)
L: 2:21 – McCarthy 4-yard run (kick blocked)