A broad smile broke out across the face of San Marino High School head football Coach Justin Mesa on Thursday night, a sight that hadn’t been seen for quite some time. And there were good reasons for both emotions.
The Titans had just broken through for their first victory of the season and the initial win of Mesa’s head football coaching career with a 12-0 decision over visiting Bell Gardens in a Thursday night match-up between two teams that were once Rio Hondo League brethren, earning the rookie coach an ice water bath for his trouble.
Sophomore quarterback Nico Mavridis, who stepped in for the injured Connor Short, threw touchdown passes of 16 yards to Michael Prappas and 24-yards to Trond Grizzell and the Titan defense held the Lancers to but a handful of first downs as San Marino improved to 1-4 with Friday’s visit to Newport Harbor the only remaining contest before the opening of league play.
“I was a little nervous the first couple plays but was able to settle down after that,” said Mavridis, who was the starter for San Marino’s freshman team last year during an abbreviated season. He ended the game completing 11 of 15 passes for 161 yards and the two scores. Mavridis carried 15 times for an additional 29 yards, and more importantly, was also able to avoid the turnover bug.
“Nico played very well and did an excellent job managing the game,” Mesa said.
Junior Matthew Karapetyan rushed six times for 32 yards and Nick Singhal picked up 25 yards on 11 trips. Grizzell caught seven balls for 123 yards, Prappas scored on his only catch of the game and Singhal made a key 14-yard grab.
Seniors Kourosh Hassibi (two tackles and two fumble recoveries), Seth Matzumoto (nine tackles), Seth Canul (four tackles)and Singhal Ifive tackles) anchored an aggressive Titan defense that allowed the Lancers just two journeys past midfield.
Providing one of the game’s many highlights, sophomore Billy Daves made two tackles and recovered a fumble after being summoned for emergency duty at linebacker.
The Titans travel to Newport Beach on Friday for the back end of a two-game home-and-home series with Newport Harbor, a squad San Marino battled to a controversial 20-20 draw a year ago. The frosh-soph squads from both schools will get things going at 3:00 p.m. with a 7:00 p.m. kickoff slated for the varsity contest. Short it still out, according to Mesa, who will again hand the ball to his sophomore.
The Titans return to the friendly confines on Friday, October 4 when an angry clowder of Monrovia Wildcats comes calling for the Rio Hondo League opener at 7:00 p.m. Due to the cyclical scheduling routine, San Marino opens 2019 against the team with whom they closed in 2018. Monrovia will be sporting a trophy-sized chip on its collective shoulder because that is exactly what the Titans stole from them on Friday, October 26 of last year. For it was then and there that San Marino claimed a 34-21 victory in what was for all intents and purposes a Rio Hondo League championship game.