The Mission Prep football team fell 28-21 to Aquinas in their first-round CIF-Southern Section Northwest Division playoff game on Friday night.
A tale of two halves: The Royals jumped out to a 21-7 lead at the end of the first half, behind a Bryce Fledderman keeper and receiving touchdowns from Brayden Corona and Sal LaCasto. The second half was a different story, with Aquinas scoring 21 unanswered points.
Containing Rankins: The Falcons leading rusher, Branden Rankins, entered Friday’s game with 1370 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns. He left with four more. The Royals contained him in the first half, giving up only one touchdown. Rankins, a bruising sophomore, ran through arm tackles and trucked defenders.
Coming into Friday’s game, Aquinas only had attempted 69 passes the entire year. When Rankins was off the field several times due to injury, the Falcons offense stalled.
Missed chances: At the end of the first half, Corona had just caught a Fledderman touchdown pass. The Royals elected to pooch kick it to the Falcons, who then bobbled it and Mission Prep recovered. After a touchdown was called back due to not maintaining the catch all the way through, the Royals missed a field goal, failing to convert for any points.
In the fourth quarter, the Falcons attempted to kick a field goal that would put them up 31-21 with two minutes left. The Royals blocked the kick and it was recovered by Mission Prep’s Jacob Christian. The Royals were backed up by penalties and were unable to convert on a fourth-and-20 with about a minute left.
The Royals (8-3) finish the season as the only team with an undefeated Northern League record in the two years of the league’s existence.