That was close. Maybe a little too close for comfort for head coach Wayne Crawford and his Rancho Dominguez Prep football team. Turnovers and a highlight-reel of penalties almost overwhelmed the Lobos, playing in the school’s first ever football playoff game.
Despite those nearly costly mistakes, the Lobos managed to pull out a 16-7 CIF Los Angeles City Section Division III playoff win at home. Wide receiver/defensive back Dominique Huffman, as he has done in the last month, came up with the big plays that made the difference for the Lobos.
With the Lobos clinging to a 9-7 lead late in the fourth quarter and Chavez driving in for a potential go-ahead score, Huffman made the play of the game when he stepped in front an Eagles receiver to pick off a pass and race 75 yards to the house for the clinching touchdown.
“That was big,” Crawford said. “That was the game-changer.”
That wasn’t Huffman’s only act during the game against the 11th-seeded Eagles. Huffman made an incredible, one-handed interception in the first quarter and ran it back 43 yards for what appeared to be a Lobos score. However, a holding penalty nullified the touchdown. But he wasn’t through. With 33 seconds to go before halftime, Huffman hauled in a 39-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Daniel Freeman on fourth down.
On his game-clinching play, Huffman said it was a matter of reading what the Eagles had been doing all night.
“I knew they were going to throw that little bubble pass,” Huffman said. “They had been running it all night.”
The victory may have come with a price for the Lobos. Hopefully, it will not. Freeman, the team leader in touchdowns, went down with an injury after a horse-collar tackle by a Chavez player in the fourth quarter as he attempted to run by the defender. A penalty was never called on the play as Freeman’s knees buckled from under him when the Chavez defender reached inside his shoulder pads from behind and jerked him backwards.
Freeman limped his way through the rest of the game. But another issue for the Lobos is number of turnovers and penalties that derailed several potential scores. The Lobos nearly wasted a great defensive effort by its defense with multiple infractions and turnovers in the red zone.
The Lobos had an interception in the end zone and committed two fumbles inside the Eagles’ 20-yard line during the game, a virtual no-no for any team to survive in the postseason. The Lobos committed several costly penalties that stalled other promising drives. In order to beat Bernstein, their opponent in the second round, the Lobos are going to have to correct these issues immediately.
But for now, the Lobos get a chance to savor their first playoff win.
“It was ugly…but it was a win,” Crawford said. “They did a better job of scouting us than we did scouting them.”