It’s not often that a running back can rush for nearly 300 yards in a game and get overshadowed by the opposing team, but that’s what happened Friday.
Los Altos High’s Sean Lanoza ran for 291 yards and two touchdowns, yet it wasn’t nearly enough to beat Homestead. The Mustangs sent the Eagles to their first loss of the year, 42-24, behind a ground game that accumulated 542 yards.
Lanoza’s career-best game began with back-to-back bursts of 27 yards on Los Altos’ first series and scoring scampers of 46 and 40 yards in the second half.
“I just wanted to do all I could for the team,” the junior said. “I tried my best to run the ball as hard as I could on offense.”
His head coach took notice.
“Sean Lanoza took the whole Eagle program and put it on his back,” Trevor Pruitt said. “He did a great job.”
While Los Altos leaned heavily on Lanoza, host Homestead implemented a three-prong rushing attack featuring Tim Cheng (213 yards, two touchdowns), Ryan Allemandi (177 yards) and Derek Rositas (146 yards, one TD).
“Their run game played great and our defense just didn’t have it today,” said Pruitt, whose team played most of the night without 360-pound defensive tackle Sami Fakalolo (blow to the head). “We weren’t running to the ball, we weren’t tackling well. Those are signs for disaster.”
Those signs showed up early in Friday’s contest, the SCVAL El Camino Division opener for the Eagles (5-1 overall). The Mustangs (1-1 league, 5-1 overall) marched right down the field on the game’s opening series for a touchdown. They drove 76 yards in eight plays – despite two penalties totaling 25 yards – and scored on Rosita’s 2-yard plunge.
Los Altos cut the deficit midway through the first quarter when Patrick McColl blocked a punt that Carlos Rivera-Salis scooped up and returned 10 yards for a touchdown. The Mustangs blocked the extra-point try.
Homestead was back in the end zone two minutes later, thanks to quarterback Jerome Holloway’s 30-yard pass to Bryan Erickson in the left corner of the end zone. The PAT by John Rak (of Los Altos) extended the Homestead lead to 14-6.
The Mustangs added another touchdown before halftime on Cheng's 22-yard run. Rak’s extra point made it 21-6 with 2:56 remaining.
The Eagles didn’t score their first offensive touchdown of the night until the third quarter. They opened the second half with a four-play, 80-yard drive capped by a 46-yard run by Lanoza, who made a quick cut right and raced into the end zone.
“The run blocking was superb,” Lanoza said. “I couldn’t have done it without my linemen.”
Homestead batted down quarterback Lambie Lanman’s two-point pass attempt, leaving the score 21-12 with 10:35 left in the quarter.
The Mustangs countered with a touchdown on their initial drive of the half, a 2-yard keeper by Holloway. Rak’s kick pushed the lead to 28-12, and it remained that way until the 8:33 mark of the fourth quarter. That’s when Lanman tossed a 22-yard pass to halfback Ben Roach in the right side of the end zone. Los Altos again went for two – and failed.
The Mustangs answered with yet another touchdown, a 4-yard run by Mateo Manjarrez that capped a 10-play, 65-yard drive. Coupled with Rak’s extra point, Homestead led 35-18 with 3:31 to play.
The teams traded long touchdown runs in the final minute – a 40-yarder by Lanoza with 52 seconds left and an 80-yarder from Cheng 15 ticks later.
The loss leaves Los Altos little margin for error if it hopes to win the division title. The Eagles trail Monta Vista (2-0), Cupertino (1-0) and Homestead with four games remaining.
“We gave them life,” Pruitt said of the Mustangs. “We knew that if we beat them today they’d be out of the playoff hunt and we’d be right in it. But give them credit – they came more prepared than we did, and that’s on the coaches. I take full blame for that.”