On a night that saw Hart High School honor the late Larry Fiscus with a jersey retirement in a pregame ceremony, as well as a halftime ceremony for homecoming, the Hart Indians (1-3) lost to the Mira Costa Mustangs (2-1), 36-10, at College of the Canyons’ Cougar Stadium.
“It always hurts to not win, I don’t care who we play,” Hart head coach Rick Herrington said. “It’s tough because I knew that they had a good offense, I knew they could throw the ball deep. I knew they were going to do that. And for the most part, we weren’t too bad at that. We gave up two long ones just because the guys in coverage got mixed up all of a sudden.”
The Indians looked like the tougher team in the early going, scoring on the third drive of the game. After both teams had a three-and-out on their initial drives, Hart used nearly 10 minutes to drive down the field and get into scoring position. But after getting the ball all the way to the Mira Costa 14, the Indians couldn’t do any more and had to settle for a Samshj Oyewo field goal to go up, 3-0.
It was all Mira Costa from that point on. Mustangs quarterback Nico De La Cruz hit wide receiver Reese Leonard for an 87-yard touchdown late in the first, and then Matthew Kraskouskas finished off an 80-yard drive late in the second with a 3-yard run. That gave the Mustangs a 12-3 lead heading into the half.
“We played pretty well in the first half,” Herrington said. “We just weren’t scoring.”
Mira Costa began the second half as well as it finished the first. The Mustangs used nearly five minutes on the opening drive, capping it off with a 4-yard run from Kraskouskas and a two-point conversion to go up, 20-3.
“We’re down 12-3, it could have been worse, but we’re down 12-3 and we’re right into it,” Herrington said. “And then we come out in the second half, and the defense was just nonexistent that first drive.”
Less than two minutes later, it was 27-3 on a 23-yard pass from De La Cruz to Leonard. De La Cruz would go on to throw one more touchdown pass, a 6-yard floater to Colin Kirkpatrick with 9:27 to go in the fourth, putting the Mustangs up, 34-3.
Hart pulled a score back with 5:32 to go in the game, Donovan Dunn finishing the Indians’ best drive of the half with a 1-yard run into the end zone for their lone touchdown of the game.
Mira Costa finished off the game with a safety with just under three minutes to go in the fourth. Bad snaps were a recurring problem for Hart, an issue that Herrington was none too pleased to see pop up.
“We can’t get a center that can snap a shotgun snap to save our life,” Herrington said. “I mean, everything’s rolling on the ground, over their head.”
Kraskouskas finished with 166 yards on 25 carries, 100 of those yards coming in the second half. From Herrington’s view, though, it was more his team’s mistakes than the Mustangs figuring things out.
“In the first half, they couldn’t run the ball at all,” Herrington said. “But then watching the film, we got guys not doing what they’ve been told, guys not running the slants, some different little things we do and playing their own thing, and that’s what happens.”
De La Cruz finished 15-of-20 passing for 247 yards and two touchdowns. His lone blemish was an interception by Hart junior Kolton Debritz midway through the second quarter when the Mustangs were threatening to score.
Hart quarterback Timmy Larkins was 16-of-27 passing for 188 yards. He threw one interception late in the third quarter to set up De La Cruz’s touchdown pass to Kirkpatrick. Dunn ran for 31 yards on 10 carries, while Larkins added 40 yards on 10 carries as well.
Shawn Irwin was Larkins’ top target, catching seven passes for 109 yards. Ryan De La Maza had four catches for 38 yards.
Junior Chris Clauss left the game midway through the second quarter after a hard hit to break up a catch.
Hart now enters Foothill League play on a bye. The Indians don’t play again until Sept. 23 when they travel to play Golden Valley (3-1) at Canyon High. The Grizzlies beat Hart last season, 19-15.
“Preseason is over. I mean, nothing you can do about it,” Herrington said. “We’re 1-3, and we played one close game and played a good first half here. First four games are done with. You can’t worry about that now. And they all know league, they all know all the players and all the teams. So just gotta be well prepared.”