LOS ANGELES — Bad followed good, almost without exception.
Hart High recovered its own squib kick to open the game. It fumbled one play later.
Indians quarterback Nick Moore scored a second-quarter touchdown. Cathedral of Los Angeles ran the ensuing kickoff all the way back for a score.
And, ultimately, a strong finish to Foothill League play didn’t translate to postseason success, as the Indians fell, 34-17, at Cathedral on Friday night in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 playoffs.
“We broke down in every area,” said Hart coach Mike Herrington. “… We didn’t play up to the highest level.”
Well, the Indians did and then they didn’t. They started and then stuttered.
A 30-yard touchdown pass from Moore to AJ Stanley brought Hart within 28-17 of Cathedral (11-0) early in the third quarter.
After a Phantom three and out, Hart (8-3) drove the ball 90 yards from its own 1 down to the Phantom 9 — only to come away with no points after a missed field goal.
The Phantoms responded with an 80-yard drive, eating up more than seven minutes of clock, and scored with 5:05 left in the game on a 4-yard pass from Andrew Tovar to Arex Flemings to set the final score.
“The score didn’t show how tough we played,” said Moore, who completed 22-of-40 passes for 224 yards.
He rushed 20 times for a hard-earned 60 yards and a 1-yard TD that brought the Indians to within 21-10 early in the second quarter.
But Flemings then weaved through Hart’s kick coverage 85 yards to push the halftime score to 28-10.
“It kept snowballing,” said Herrington, whose team was coming off three decisive wins to wrap up Foothill League play, including a victory over Saugus in the regular-season finale to clinch second place.
But, for the second year in a row, the Indians fell short in the first round against an undefeated opponent.
Friday was hardly last season’s 49-14 loss to Mission Viejo. However, it still means that Indians fans have witnessed just one playoff win since the team won a CIF title in 2013.
That, though, isn’t because of Moore, who’s ability to escape pressure in the backfield and improvise with his legs kept the Indians close Friday.
In the first quarter, he broke a tackle in the backfield before hurtling up the sideline for 27 yards on third-and-26, setting up a field goal for Hart’s first points.
The Indians, though, couldn’t match punches with a Phantom team that averaged 36 points per game entering the night.
Tovar completed 12-of-20 passes for 192 yards and three TDs, each to a different receiver.
Stanley caught seven passes for 117 yards. Hart linebacker Charles Ike made a leaping interception at the Cathedral 30 to set up Hart’s first touchdown.
Moore’s older brother Matt, the backup quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, was on the sideline at Cathedral.
Matt had the afternoon off before the Dolphins play in San Diego on Sunday and made the trip to watch Nick play in person for the first time.
“Nick is the ultimate competitor,” said Matt. “It was fun to watch him.”