Trey Kukuk has ‘amazing’ night as Capistrano Valley football tops Trabuco Hills in epic contest


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MISSION VIEJO >> With so much on the line for Capistrano Valley and Trabuco Hills in a tight Sea View League race, it was natural to expect that both football teams would battle to the end Friday night.

But no one probably expected an instant classic that will probably be talked about for a long time.

Trey Kukuk nearly broke an Orange County record as he passed for 611 yards to lead Capistrano Valley to a 59-56 victory over Trabuco Hills at Capistrano Valley High.

Kukuk finished 2 yards short of the OC record held by Connor Manning, who threw for 613 yards in a game for El Toro in 2012.

Following a Drew Barrett 2-yard touchdown run that gave Trabuco Hills the lead with less than a minute left, Kukuk drove the Cougars down the field. He connected with Dane Benedix for a 30-yard touchdown pass to give Capo Valley the lead with six seconds left.

“This was amazing,” Kukuk said. “We talked earlier after the tough loss last week (to El Toro). All week we talked about coming together as a family. We talked about battling for all four quarters and that is exactly what we did. It came down to the last second.

“I’m just so proud of this team. Everyone did their part and everyone stuck together and we finished the game out. That was an amazing game.”

Postgame interview with Trey Kukuk of Capo Valley, who carried the Cougars to an instant classic victory with 611 passing yards, 2 yards short of the OC Record.@ocvarsity @capofootball @CapoValleyHS @CVHSCAGE pic.twitter.com/78Ey3BPHv6

— Manny Alvarez (@MAlvarez02) October 23, 2021

Kukuk also rushed for 102 yards on 18 carries with two touchdowns. He completed 39 of 61 passes with six touchdowns to go with the ninth-most passing yards in state history.

Kukuk had three receivers with more than 100 yards receiving, led by Benedix with 16 receptions for 259 yards and two scores.

Owen Taylor caught 11 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown, and Mark Hopkins caught nine passes for 129 yards and three touchdowns for the Cougars.

“We’ll definitely think about this game for years to come,” Benedix said. “All the seniors will remember this. This was Senior Night for us. This is a game everyone is going to remember.”

Correction, 16 catches for 259 yards and 2 touchdowns. Forgot to write in the game winner on the stat sheet as I was in shock! https://t.co/YmtSRMb1W3

— Manny Alvarez (@MAlvarez02) October 23, 2021

Trabuco Hills (7-2, 1-1) and Capistrano Valley (5-4, 1-1) are tied for second place in the league standings. El Toro is in first with a 2-0 record. The league finishes up next week with Trabuco Hills at El Toro and Capistrano Valley at Aliso Niguel (0-2 in league) on Friday, Oct. 29.

The league’s top two finishers automatically qualify for the CIF-SS playoffs.

Trabuco Hills held a 35-24 lead at halftime Friday and had a 35-31 lead at the end of the third quarter.

After Capo Valley took the lead in the fourth quarter, the Mustangs took back the lead, and then went on for the rest of the quarter. There was a staggering seven lead changes in the quarter.

“I’m just so proud of this team,” Capo Valley coach Sean Curtis said. “We’ve stuck together through adversity this whole year, with the teams we have played this year that gave us their best shot week in and week out. Last week we felt like we didn’t play well enough to beat El Toro. We were waiting to play our best game. Obviously, we still have some things to fix on defense, but Trey is a special player.”

Postgame interview with Capo Valley coach Sean Curtis as his Cougars get a win in an insane thriller!@ocvarsity @capofootball @CapoValleyHS @CVHSCAGE pic.twitter.com/SbHXy9gWYN

— Manny Alvarez (@MAlvarez02) October 23, 2021

Jackson Sievers had 11 tackles for the Cougars.

Barrett rushed for 218 yards with five touchdowns on 24 carries, and Will Burns rushed for 139 yards on 13 carries and two scores for the Mustangs.

Dylan Hagen had 10 tackles and Noah Gerrish had two sacks.

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Rancho Alamitos football beats Santiago with wild finish, clinches share of league title


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GARDEN GROVE >> Rancho Alamitos quarterback Isaac Plata found Sal Correa for an 18-yard touchdown pass and the go-ahead points with 42 seconds left to squeak by Santiago 25-22 on Friday night at Garden Grove High.

The Vaqueros (8-1, 4-0) clinched a share of the Garden Grove League championship with the victory in a game that saw four lead changes in the fourth quarter. They can win the league outright by beating Los Amigos next week.

“We have no quit in us,” Rancho Alamitos coach Mike Enright said. “Our kids are resilient. We could’ve folded right there when they got that long touchdown run but we did what we do.”

The long touchdown run was a 72-yard sprint up the middle by Cavaliers running back Art Martinez, which gave Santiago a 22-18 advantage with 2:56 left in the game. That came one play from scrimmage after Vaqueros kicker Angel Diaz nailed a 37-yard field goal to take an 18-16 lead.

“I almost feel like we scored too fast,” Santiago coach Doug Ozsvath said. “Art Martinez broke that one off and I said ‘oh my gosh,’ as I started looking up at that clock.”

Enright felt confident that Plata would lead the Vaqueros downfield for the game-winning score.

“We practice it every day. We’re a no-huddle offense, we don’t go fast every time, but we are a two-minute team,” Enright explained. “We don’t worry about coming from behind because we know we can.”

Plata spread the ball around on the game-winning drive as Anthony Leal (117 yards rushing), Jonathan Nguyen, Matthew Sanchez, Valentino Villa and Correa all got touches on the final possession.

“We use a lot of receivers. We don’t throw to one guy, we’re gonna throw to the open guy,” Enright said.

Plata, a senior, who stepped up to play quarterback after Chris Hurley suffered a season-ending injury, went 14 of 18 passing with 122 yards and two touchdowns, including a 3-yard scoring pass to Sanchez in the second quarter.

The Cavaliers (7-2, 3-1) scored on their opening possession, a 12-play, 64-yard drive capped by Satomai Siofele’s 1-yard run to go up 8-0 after a successful 2-point conversion.

Santiago held a 8-7 lead at halftime but the Vaqueros emphasized their ground game in the second half and Leal was the main force behind the turnaround. Leal ran the ball eight times in an 11-play scoring drive that ended with him scoring on a 1-yard run to give Rancho Alamitos a 15-8 advantage midway through the third quarter.

The Cavaliers answered with Isaac Hernandez’s 8-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter to give Santiago a 16-15 lead, the first of four lead changes in the final quarter.

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Austin Overn leads Foothill football past Villa Park in another dramatic Crestview League game


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ORANGE — The Crestview League produced two football games decided by three points in its opening round. The group kept to its dramatic ways Friday but Foothill added a major twist.

Austin Overn scored three touchdowns and threw for a TD to lead the No. 11 Knights to a 35-28 victory against No. 9 Villa Park in a game decided in the closing minutes at El Modena High.

Penn commit Patrick Hawkins sealed the victory with a sack on a fourth-and-4 from the Foothill 5-yard line with 3:33 left in the final quarter, allowing the Knights (8-1, 1-1) to run out the clock.

  • The Foothill High School football team celebrate with their coach Doug Case, center, after defeating Villa Park in a key Crestview League game in Orange on Friday, October 22, 2021. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Foothill’s Austin Overn, center, catches a pass between Villa Park cornerback Eddie Rodriguez Jr, left, and free safety Benjie Lewis, right, and is able to hang onto the ball as he falls to the ground in Orange on Friday, October 22, 2021. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Villa Park quarterback Nathan Kornely, right, is hit hard and knocked down by Foothill’s Dean Pistone, left, in Orange on Friday, October 22, 2021. Tempers flared after the play with a penalty assessed on Villa Park. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Villa Park quarterback Nathan Kornely, second from left, reaches out to shake hands with Foothill guard Reed Fergus (72) before leaving the game with an injured arm late in the fourth quarter in Orange on Friday, October 22, 2021. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Villa Park cornerback Eddie Rodriguez Jr, left, is called for pass interference on a pass intended for Foothill’s Austin Overn, right, in Orange on Friday, October 22, 2021. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Foothill’s Patrick Hawkins (85) and Austin Overn, right, celebrate with teammates after regaining possession of the ball from Villa Park with a little under four minutes remaining the game in Orange on Friday, October 22, 2021. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Villa Park fans get into the spirit of the game against Foothill in Orange on Friday, October 22, 2021. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Villa Park quarterback Nathan Kornely, right, scrambles to find a receiver as he his pursued by a Foothill defender in Orange on Friday, October 22, 2021. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Villa Park quarterback Nathan Kornely has his forearm immobilized after begin hurt on Villa Park’s last play of the game in Orange on Friday, October 22, 2021. Foothill took possession and ran out the clock to win the game. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Foothill’s Austin Overn, center, hits the ground after catching a pass but hangs onto the ball as he is double covered by Villa Park cornerback Eddie Rodriguez Jr, left, and free safety Benjie Lewis, right, in Orange on Friday, October 22, 2021. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Foothill’s Austin Overn jogs into the end zone to score a fourth quarter touchdown to put Foothill ahead of Villa Park 34-28 in Orange on Friday, October 22, 2021. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Villa Park cheerleaders perform for the crowd during a break in the action against Foothill in Orange on Friday, October 22, 2021. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • The Villa Park football team run onto the field before the start of the game against Foothill in Orange on Friday, October 22, 2021. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Villa Park cornerback Jackson Christie, right, is brought down by Foothill’s Reese Von Hemert, left, in Orange on Friday, October 22, 2021. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Foothill’s Matt Little powers his way toward the end zone to score a touchdown against Villa Park in the first quarter in Orange on Friday, October 22, 2021. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Villa Park quarterback Nathan Kornely, right, gets the ball over the goal line to score a touchdown against Foothill in the second quarter in Orange on Friday, October 22, 2021. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Villa Park quarterback Nathan Kornely, left, confers with coach h Dusan Ancich during the game against Foothill in Orange on Friday, October 22, 2021. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Villa Park fans cheer their team during the game against Foothill in Orange on Friday, October 22, 2021. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Foothill’s Austin Overn dives into the end zone to score a touchdown against Villa Park in the first quarter in Orange on Friday, October 22, 2021. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

  • Villa Park wide receiver Cole Cassara, right, beats Foothill’s Dean Pistone, left, but the pass falls incomplete in the second quarter in Orange on Friday, October 22, 2021. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

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Foothill, coming off a loss in the final seconds to Yorba Linda, took a 35-27 lead on a sensational, 37-yard TD run by Overn with 9:15 left in the fourth. The speedy senior, committed to USC for baseball, bounced off a tackle at the 20-yard line and raced to the end zone.

Defending league champion Villa Park (7-2, 1-1) tied the score at 21-21 and 28-28 in the third quarter on a pair of touchdown passes by Nate Kornely, who passed for 302 yards despite playing with a sore shoulder. The reigning Crestview player of the year passed for three TDs and also rushed for a score before being shaken up on Hawkins’ final sack.

Kornely tossed a 26-yard TD to Diego Sanchez to cap the Spartans’ first possession of the third quarter and later connected on a 37-yarder to Cole Cassara with 53 seconds left in the third.

The Cassara TD came after Kornely bounced back from a hard hit by Foothill’s Dean Pistone and helped the Spartans answer a trick play by Foothill.

The Knights took a 28-21 lead in the middle of the third on a double-pass that featured Overn tossing a 65-yard strike to a wide open Brady Schrank.

Foothill sprinted to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter behind its ground attack and defense.

After the Knights forced Villa Park to turn the ball over on downs on the opening possession, Foothill marched 79 yards on three running plays to reach the end zone. Matt Little scored on a 4-yard run but sophomore Aaron Mitchell did the heavy lifting on the possession by breaking runs of 38 and 37 yards.

Mitchell finished with 165 yards on 15 carries.

Foothill inside linebacker Ethan Charpentier sparked the drive with a tackle for no gain on fourth-and-1 from the Knights 21.

The junior then recovered a fumble on the second play of the ensuing possession, giving Foothill the ball at the Villa Park 32. Overn followed a few plays later with a 12-yard TD run as the Knights opened a 14-0 lead with 3:52 left in the first quarter.

Villa Park capitalized on a special teams miscue early in the second quarter to find its footing. The Spartans took over the Foothill 26 after a botched punt attempt and drove for a 3-yard TD run by Kornely.

Foothill kept the pressure on with a 78-yard scoring drive capped by a 11-yard TD pass from Brody Jones to a leaping Overn. Jon Fobear added the extra-point and the Knights led 21-7 with 6:11 left in the half.

Villa Park hung close with a scoring drive just before half. The Spartans drove from their 30 for a 7-yard TD pass from Kornely to Sanchez with 16 seconds left to trim Foothill’s lead to 21-14.

Next week, Villa Park closes out the regular season by playing host to Yorba Linda at El Modena High. Foothill plays host to El Modena at Tustin High.

 

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OCVarsity Gridiron: Fryer and Albano make their picks for the top Week 9 games

Steve Fryer and Dan Albano discuss the top football games on the Week 9 schedule and make their picks. Check out what they have to say about these games: Mater Dei-Servite, Foothill-Villa Park, Santiago-Rancho Alamitos, Irvine-Portola and Capistrano Valley-Trabuco Hills.

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Cypress football rolls over Kennedy to clinch share of Empire title


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ANAHEIM >> Cypress football started fast and showed no signs of slowing down in the second half, and Tomas Ramirez ran for 141 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-6 win over Kennedy in an Empire League game Thursday night at Western High.

The No. 14 Centurions (7-2, 4-0) clinched a share of the league championship with the victory and can secure an outright title with a win over Valencia next week in the league finale.

Cypress coach Rick Feldman was pleased with the team’s effort, especially in the second half after building a 21-0 lead at the break.

“We challenged our O-line, specifically (in the second half),” Feldman said. “We’re going to come out in our double-tight set, and we came out and were real effective and dominated the second half. That was huge, I don’t think we threw a pass in the second half.”

Ramirez touched the ball on all four plays — covering 70 yards — on the team’s opening drive of the second half. The drive ended with the senior scoring on an 11-yard run.

Cypress’ Tomas Ramirez had 4 TDs in a 41-6 win over rival Kennedy. Ramirez credited his linemen tonight and also wants to win an outright league championship. @ocvarsity @CHSLineSixFB @CypHS_Athletics @TomasRamirez_04 pic.twitter.com/9r1JCem8ay

— David Delgado🇪🇨 (@DavidDelgado_OC) October 22, 2021

After Trevor Monteleone intercepted Kennedy quarterback Alex Herrera on the next possession, Ramirez scored on a 37-yard run to make it 34-0 with 4:46 remaining in the third quarter.

Kennedy (4-4, 1-3) was without star wide receiver Hunter Benton, who missed the game due to concussion protocol.

The Centurions defense held the Fighting Irish in check all night, recording four sacks and two turnovers, which included a fumble recovery by Muhammad Hassoneh. Carson St. Amand and Ayden Gomez combined for three of the four sacks.

“They’re great, two undersized, 180-pound guys, with motors that don’t stop, they play real fast,” Feldman said of St. Amand and Gomez.

Herrera and Niko Brown connected for Kennedy’s only touchdown late in the third quarter, which was a 76-yard completion.

Cypress quarterback Matthew Morrell was efficient in throwing for 145 yards all in the first half, which included a 55-yard strike to Ramirez for the game’s first score and a screen pass to Devin Cobb who turned that into a 42-yard touchdown and a 21-0 advantage.

Cypress ATH Devin Cobb had a great performance which included a 42-yd TD reception, 57 yards rushing and a PBU. Cobb looks forward to ending the season with a a win over Valencia next week. @ocvarsity @CHSLineSixFB @DevinKCobb1 pic.twitter.com/V6AQBNM3No

— David Delgado🇪🇨 (@DavidDelgado_OC) October 22, 2021

Sophomore Jesse Mauldin added a 2-yard touchdown run for the Centurions in the third quarter.

Feldman said Cypress will not look past the Tigers next week.

“They’re a real physical team that runs the ball real well,” Feldman said. “They’re going to be prepared and they’re going to play hard, so we have to play like we did in the second half today, and be able to match their physicality. If we can do that, I think we have a chance.”

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Orange County’s top committed football recruits, Oct. 20


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Top committed Orange County, Trinity League football recruits

Seniors, Class of 2022 

Cooper Barkate, Mater Dei, WR, 6-2, 190, Harvard

Raleek Brown, Mater Dei, RB, 5-8, 185, Oklahoma

Keyan Burnett, Servite, TE, 6-5, 200, Arizona

Nathan Burrell, St. John Bosco, DL, 6-3, 250, Cal

Kurt Chesney, Aliso Niguel, LS, 6-1, 220, Air Force

Noah Fifita, Servite, QB, 5-10, 170, Arizona

Mason Graham, Servite, DL, 6-4, 295, Michigan

Sione Hala, St. John Bosco, S, 6-2, 195, Boston College

Katin Houser, St. John Bosco, QB, 6-3, 200, Michigan State

Josh Hunter, Mater Dei, S, 5-10, 168, San Diego State

Blaze Iglesias, Orange, DE, 6-3, 255, Air Force

Domani Jackson, Mater Dei, CB, 6-1, 185, USC

Eoghan Kerry, Mater Dei, LB, 6-3, 234, Texas

Jacob Manu, Servite, LB, 5-11, 210, Arizona

Tetairoa McMillan, Servite, WR, 6-4, 185, Oregon

Braden Pegan, San Juan Hills, WR, 6-5, 195, UCLA

Jairus Satele, St. John Bosco, DL, 6-0, 270, Navy

Cameron Sidney, Mater Dei, CB, 5-11, 170, Cal

Adam Tomczyk, Los Alamitos, DL, 6-4, 265, Utah State

Taitai Uiagalelei, Mater Dei, DL, 6-5, 250, Washington State

CJ Williams, Mater Dei, WR, 6-2, 195, Notre Dame

Jalen Woods, St. John Bosco, LB, 6-0, 192, UCLA

Juniors, Class of 2023

Makai Lemon, Los Alamitos, WR/ATH, 5-11, 175, Oklahoma

Malachi Nelson, Los Alamitos, QB, 6-3, 180, Oklahoma

Deandre Moore Jr., Los Alamitos, WR/ATH, 5-11, 185, Oklahoma

Freshman, Class of 2025

Arron White, Orange, 6-2, 163, CB/ATH, Orange

Please send football recruiting news to Dan Albano at dalbano@scng.com or @ocvarsityguy Twitter

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At first glance: Servite vs. Mater Dei matchup, Oct. 23

At first glance: Servite (8-0, 3-0) vs. Mater Dei (6-0, 3-0)

When: Saturday, Oct. 23, 8 p.m.

Where: Santa Ana Stadium

TV: Bally Sports West

MaxPreps national rankings: Mater Dei (1), Servite (8)

High School Football America national rankings: Mater Dei (1), Servite (20)

Calpreps state rankings: Mater Dei (1), Servite (2)

Tickets: Sold out in minutes Monday

Notable: Mater Dei has defeated Servite nine consecutive years in the rivalry. The Monarchs’ defense has been one of the keys, allowing no more than 22 points in any of the games. … Mater Dei leads the all-time series 41-17-2.  … The Monarchs are averaging 50.8 points, just ahead of the Friars at 49.8. Mater Dei is holding opponents to average of 9.5 points while Servite limits teams to 11.2. … In the spring, Mater Dei defeated Servite 24-17 in a penalty-married game at Santa Ana Stadium. The Monarchs were flagged 22 times for 201 yards, including several for pass interference against wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan (six catches for 107 yards). Mater Dei’s defense was led by David Bailey (four sacks) and cornerback Cam Sidney (interception return for TD). … Sophomore Elijah Brown of Mater Dei and senior Noah Fifita of Servite are two of the best QBs in the county.

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Alexander: Dodgers finding not all 0-2 NLCS deficits are alike

If there was a moment Sunday night that reminded us that this isn’t last year, it was the renewal of the Will Smith vs. Will Smith rivalry in the ninth inning in suburban Atlanta.

Will The Elder gave up a memorable home run to Will The Younger during the 2020 Dodgers-Braves National League Championship Series. When they faced each other Sunday night, Will the Younger struck out swinging on a slider for the second out of the ninth inning.

One vignette, true. But maybe here’s another: Julio Urías, the Dodgers’ accidental but oh, so successful closer of 2020, came into the game to start the eighth inning Sunday night with a 4-2 lead – and gave up three hits and the tying runs, only escaping further damage by striking out Joc Pederson and pinch-hitter Ehire Adrianza to strand the go-ahead run on second base.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told reporters after the game that he considered Urías his best option at that point, even after Blake Treinen needed just nine pitches to get through the seventh.

“We talked about it before the series, and he was available (Saturday) night if it came to the situation, but it didn’t,” Roberts said. “He hadn’t thrown a bullpen and he was the best option at that point in time. He was prepared for it.”

Not only did Urías struggle, but those 14 pitches might have compromised him for his scheduled start on Wednesday in Game 4. Max Scherzer, with two days of rest after his 13-pitch save of Game 5 on Thursday night in San Francisco, made it through 79 pitches and, somewhat uncharacteristically but absolutely candidly, acknowledged to Roberts that he was spent.

Somehow, the idea of “five and dive, and be ready to throw a high-stress inning out of the bullpen in a couple of days” might not be a sustainable strategy. Atlanta’s Brian Snitker hasn’t seen the need to use any of his starters in relief yet, but he used every one of his relievers last night and has used Tyler Matzek, Luke Jackson and Smith (The Elder) each of the first two games. And, unlike last year, there are days off in this series.

One more reminder that it’s different? Joctober still exists, only now it’s dreaded instead of welcomed in the Dodgers’ dugout. Joc Pederson wiped out the Dodgers’ first lead with a two-run home run in the fourth – specifically, a booming, 454-foot drive off Scherzer. As this series goes on, Pederson – no longer just a platoon player – has to be reckoned with.

There is this thought, which could be comforting if you still hold onto memories of 2020: The Braves were up 2-0 in last year’s series. They’re up 2-0 in this series after Eddie Rosario’s shot up the middle and under Corey Seager’s glove drove in the winning run, on Kenley Jansen’s first and only pitch of the game in the ninth inning, for a 5-4 Atlanta victory.

But do you really want to have to run the elimination game gamut again? No matter how battle-tested you might be, when you roll those dice too often you’ll lose at some point.

And here’s the biggest difference, so far, between this year and last year: Those Dodgers were noted for scoring runs with two outs: 59 through 19 postseason games. That’s the sign of a team capable of cashing in opportunities and adjusting as necessary to get it done.

These Dodgers are hitting under .200 with runners in scoring position through eight games this postseason: 13 for 68, or .191. They were 1 for 10 Sunday night. The one was Chris Taylor’s two-run double in the seventh, a sinking liner that center fielder Guillermo Heredia – who had entered the game that inning – couldn’t get to and then overran, seemingly unsure whether to try to dive or to short-hop it.

Otherwise? They left 10 men on base. They had men on first and second with one out in the third, but Gavin Lux popped up and Taylor struck out. They had first and second with two outs in the fifth, after Mookie Betts walked and stole second and Smith (the Younger) was intentionally walked with two outs, and Lux flied to left.

They got Taylor to third with one out in the sixth, and AJ Pollock and pinch-hitter Albert Pujols struck out. They re-loaded the bases after Taylor’s hit in the seventh, and Pollock struck out. And Trea Turner hit the first pitch from Smith (The Elder) to the wall in left field, but Rosario ran it down.

It’s a problem we’ve seen all season, and now it’s recurring at the worst possible time. And yes, the approach has been an issue.

“It’s an approach thing,” Roberts said. “I think that certain times in scoring position, we’re expanding (the strike zone) too much.”

But here’s the biggest difference from 2020 (besides, of course, the fact that the core of this group now knows what it’s like to win a championship): They’re going to be playing the middle games at home, where they were 58-23 during the regular season and are 2-1 so far in the postseason.

And if ever they needed the extra push from a spirited home crowd, it’s now.

jalexander@scng.com

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

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Sacha Kljestan’s late penalty lifts Galaxy to win over Portland Timbers

  • LA Galaxy defender Derrick Williams, center, heads the ball during the second half of an MLS soccer match against the Portland Timbers Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy midfielder Jonathan dos Santos, right, controls the ball in front of Portland Timbers midfielder Cristhian Paredes during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Portland Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark (12) stops a shot from LA Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez (14) during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy defender Derrick Williams defends against Portland Timbers midfielder Sebastian Blanco (10) during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez, right, heads the ball during the first half of the team’s MLS soccer match against the Portland Timbers on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Portland Timbers forward Yimmi Chara (23) tries to kick the ball, as LA Galaxy defender Nick DePuy heads it during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Portland Timbers forward Yimmi Chara controls the ball during the first half of the team’s MLS soccer match against the LA Galaxy on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Portland Timbers defender Pablo Bonilla, left, dribbles past LA Galaxy forward Kevin Cabral (9) during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy midfielder Sacha Kljestan scores on a penalty kick during the second half of the team’s MLS soccer match against the Portland Timbers on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy midfielder Sacha Kljestan, center, celebrates after scoring on a penalty kick during the second half against the Portland Timbers in an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy midfielder Efrain Alvarez, right, dribbles against the Portland Timbers during the second half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy defender Derrick Williams, right, works against Portland Timbers midfielder Sebastian Blanco during the second half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez, right, reacts after a missed shot on a goal during the second half of an MLS soccer match against the Portland Timbers Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget, right, dribbles against the Portland Timbers during the second half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez, center left, celebrates with a teammate after a win over the Portland Timbers during the second half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez, left, reacts after a foul during the second half of an MLS soccer match against the Portland Timbers Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez, center, celebrates after a win over the Portland Timbers during an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez (14) kicks the ball into the net for a goal during the second half of the team’s MLS soccer match against the Portland Timbers on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Portland Timbers midfielder Sebastian Blanco, center (10) is hugged by teammates after his goal during the second half of the team’s MLS soccer match against the LA Galaxy on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy defender Julian Araujo leaps over Portland Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark during the second half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez (14) celebrates his goal next to Portland Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark during the second half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez (14) kicks the ball into the net for a goal during the second half of the team’s MLS soccer match against the Portland Timbers, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond, left, watches as the ball goes over his head for a goal on a kick from Portland Timbers midfielder Sebastian Blanco during the second half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy midfielder Sacha Kljestan, center, celebrates after scoring on a penalty kick against the Portland Timbers during the second half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LA Galaxy midfielder Sacha Kljestan, center, celebrates after scoring on a penalty kick during the second half against the Portland Timbers in an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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CARSON — At times this season the Galaxy looked to be a lock for the MLS Cup Playoffs.

In the cruel world of Major League Soccer, it is best not to count your chickens before they’re hatched.

Saturday, feeling the crunch on the season and the weight of a nine-game winless streak, the Galaxy finally exhaled a bit thanks to a Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez’s 62nd minute goal and later Sacha Kljestan’s successful penalty, to lead the way to a 2-1 win and breathed some much-needed life into its playoff lives.

“For sure there was an exhale,” Galaxy coach Greg Vanney said. “But I do feel like from the group there was a confidence building, it was something that they deserved, they’ve deserved it I felt during this stretch and we didn’t get it. I hope the group feels like there is a shift in momentum here that we got over the hump and we got a real opportunity in the coming week to take more points.”

With the game tied at 1-1, Efrain Alvarez on the ball, made two cutting moves and was fouled in the box and referee Victor Rivas pointed to the penalty spot in the second minute of stoppage time..

Kljestan stepped up and converted, just under Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark.

“I thought were in total control, we had a lot of possession, we created some great chances and it felt like one of those games in the first half where, they were going to get one chance and they were going to score,” Kljestan said. “They scored a fluky goal and you go, oh no, not again.

“To get that win in the end, I think it is a big exhale for everybody and now, hopefully, it is start of winning streak or an unbeaten run.”

Kljestan never hesitated with his kick, going to Clark’s right and beating him. He said he doesn’t focus on the goalkeeper’s tendencies.

“I don’t pay attention to the goalies,” he said. “I decide the morning of the game where I’m going to shoot if I get a penalty. This morning, I had a feeling we were going to get a penalty, I just didn’t know if I would be on the field to take it or not. I knew when I put the ball down, I was going to shoot that way.”

With the win, the Galaxy, who could have fallen below the playoff line if results went a certain way on Sunday, moved up to sixth on 42 points, tied with Real Salt Lake.

The Galaxy is now 12-11-6 with five games remaining

The Galaxy’s opening goal was much deserved considering how the Galaxy dominated the game in the first half and into the second half.

Still, it came from a bit of nothing. Julian Araujo’s cross for the far post. Portland defender Larry’s Mabiala, instead of clearing the ball, leapt over it, thinking it was going to roll out. However, Hernandez didn’t quit, going low with a slide to poke the ball in.

In the 72nd minute, Portland’s Sebastian Blanco found himself unmarked on the left and shot in a chip shot that eluded Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond to make it 1-1.

The goal sucked the life out of the crowd as the game went into the additional four minutes of added time, it looked as if the Galaxy was headed for what would have been a disappointing draw.

This was the third meeting of the season between the teams. They had split the previous two.

The Galaxy started the game looking like a team that had figured things out, putting the Timbers under pressure from the outset of the game. Unfortunately, despite the pressure and the near chances, the final act of putting the ball into the goal was never accomplished, sending the teams into halftime scoreless.

The Galaxy will return to action Wednesday on the road at the Houston Dynamo.

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OCVarsity football wrap-up: All the stories, scores, photos from Friday’s Week 8 games


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This is the place to find all of OCVarsity’s game stories, photos, scores and more from the high school football games on Friday, plus our coverage of the games Thursday.

FRIDAY’S GAMES

SCORES

High school football: All of the scores from Friday’s Week 8 games

PHOTO GALLERY

High school football: Our top photos from Friday’s Week 8 games

GAME STORIES

Yorba Linda football edges Foothill in league thriller to stay undefeated

Cypress football tops Pacifica in crucial Empire League matchup

Garden Grove football tops Katella in OT in Big 4 League opener

San Clemente football holds off San Juan Hills with big plays from defense

Mater Dei football smashes through Santa Margarita despite a few distractions

Cameron Goods helps Irvine football knock off Dana Hills and stay unbeaten

Villa Park football finishes strong to beat El Modena in a tough Crestview opener

St. John Bosco football uses big plays to beat Orange Lutheran

THURSDAY’S GAMES

GAME STORIES

Servite football stays focused, crushes JSerra in last test before taking on Mater Dei

Canyon football shows its resolve, stuns Brea Olinda in North Hills opener

Santiago football defeats Los Amigos to stay in contention for league title


DID YOU SEE THIS?

Twins Hunter and River Benton help bring excitement back to Kennedy football

Ocean View High’s Salazar becomes second OC girl to score varsity TD

Football notes: Resurgent Irvine ‘fired up’ to start challenging Pacific Hills League

Orange County high school football top 25 for Week 8

 

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