Hart Indians football cruised to victory on Friday and clinched a third-place finish in the Foothill League after defeating the Castaic Coyotes.
Indians running back Chris Clauss scored a trio of touchdowns in the 42-13 win.
“We’re feeling real good,” Clauss said. “After the Valencia loss, we needed this one really badly to get third place in the Foothill League. And we’re going into the playoffs feeling strong.”
Hart (7-3, 4-2) scored 35 straight points to go up by five scores at halftime.
The Indians hardly possessed the ball in the first quarter as the offense struck hard and fast.
Indians running back Zach Rogozik opened up the scoring with a 6-yard touchdown, while Clauss took his first touch of the night to the house on a 50-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Tim Larkins.
Hart continued to hammer in points as the rushing game got going in the second. Larkins, and Clauss both rushed for touchdowns while the quarterback also hit receiver Shawn Irwin for a 6-yard touchdown just before halftime.
Irwin finished the game with 10 catches for 141 yards.
Coyotes head coach Sirr Guy Shakir aimed to slow down Irwin in coverage, knowing it’d be nearly impossible to stop him completely.
“The obvious thing is trying to try to slow down No. 4,” Shakir said. “He’s a really talented player. He’s one of the best receivers I’ve seen in high school in quite some time.”
Castaic quarterback Jayden Broderick got the start in the regular season finale. Broderick, a junior, was 8-for-20 with 188 yards.
“We were just in a situation where (Broderick) had worked hard for a really long time and we wanted to give him an opportunity,” Shakir said. “If our season does continue, we want both guys to have some experience.”
The Coyotes’ normal starting quarterback Tyler Lewis entered in the fourth quarter and gave his team a spark. It was too little too late to come back into the game but the junior quarterback hit Lucas Milan for a 48-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter.
Castaic (6-4, 3-3) also got a spark from senior Manny Ramirez, who reeled in the game’s only interception. The pick off Larkins set up a 95-yard rushing score from senior Paul Lotz on the very next play.
Ramirez also added a sack in the game.
The Coyotes nearly scored in the first quarter but were turned away twice inside the Hart 30-yard line.
Broderick led Castaic down the field but the team failed to convert on fourth and short on the Indians 28-yard line.
The Coyotes then marched all the way down to the Hart 1-yard line. Castaic could smell six points but Hart made a goal line stand on four straight plays to keep the Coyotes scoreless.
Hart head coach Rick Herrington was pleased with his defense’s week 11 performance.
“The first half was great, they got a couple of plays in that first drive but after the defensive line played great. Outside backers came up, made some plays. I was really pleased with the defense. They played really well.”
Hart senior Vincent Tiscareno led the defense with one sack and three tackles for a loss.
“Our defense has been really consistent all year, even in the non-league games,” Tiscareno said. “We’ve led up barely any points, it’s been three and outs all the time. We’ve just been working hard especially in practice, there’s been so much improvement every week.”
Larkins capped off his regular season finale going 20-for-31 with 290 yards and three total touchdowns.
Hart and Castaic are eyeballing long playoff runs. Tiscareno’s defense is feeling confident heading back into the postseason.
“We’re feeling really confident,” Tiscareno said. “We of course have a little hiccups to fix here and there, but it’s nothing that we haven’t overcome and nothing that we can’t overcome.”
The Indians opened up at home last season but lost a heartbreaker.
“It always helps to win that last game before the playoffs start but it didn’t help us last year,” Herrington said. “The seniors felt that last year so they don’t want that to happen again. So hopefully they’ll keep that mindset.”
For Castaic, the season of firsts continues on as the team will most likely add its first playoff game to the 2023 resume.
Both teams are locks for the playoffs and find out their fates on Sunday morning when the CIF releases its postseason football brackets.