ARCADIA — For the first quarter of Friday night's game against Rio Hondo Prep, the members of the Flintridge Prep football team looked noticeably rejuvenated.
Throughout most of the season, the Rebels have struggled in the opening quarter. That wasn't the case while matched against an opponent that's won two straight CIF Southern Section championships.
“It was a complete turnaround for us and I liked the way we came out and stayed with Rio Hondo,” said Flintridge Prep Coach Antonio Harrison, whose team dropped to 0-7, 0-2 in league with three games remaining. “It was our best first quarter since the first week of the season against Carlsbad Army-Navy.
“We did a lot of things well right away. I loved our start and the way we played toward the end of the game. Things just got away from us in the middle.”
Rio Hondo Prep, which captured the CIF Southern Section Northeast Division championship last season and is ranked third in the latest division poll, received a huge effort from running back Nate Tayco. Tayco rushed for 189 yards in 13 carries and scored four rushing touchdowns to help the Kares improve to 6-1, 2-0.
Flintridge Prep got a splendid effort from running back Stefan Smith, who rushed for 210 yards in 21 carries and scored all three touchdowns for the Rebels. Smith, a senior and a reigning All-Area honoree, had touchdown runs of six, 73 and four yards.
Smith said the Rebels showed some signs of improvement Friday.
“I thought we definitely played better, especially in the first quarter,” Smith said. “It was just about going out there and competing against a real good team like Rio Hondo Prep.
“My guys blocked well for me. We were able to get a few plays going right away. The games are precious and there's three left to go.”
Rio Hondo Prep scored on its first play from scrimmage when Tayco ran down the left sideline 63 yards to make it 7-0 with 10:28 left in the first quarter. The Rebels, who placed second in league last season, trimmed the deficit to 7-6 on a six-yard run by Smith three minutes later.
The Kares took a 14-6 lead on a six-yard run by Tayco with 5:48 left in the opening quarter. On its next possession, Rio Hondo Prep extended the advantage to 21-6 when quarterback Johnny Bolinger connected with wide receiver Isaac Holguin on a 65-yard touchdown pass with 3:27 left in the first quarter.
On the ensuing possession, Smith scored on a 73-yard touchdown run in which he eluded three Rio Hondo Prep defenders near midfield. The Rebels converted on the two-point conversion when quarterback Andrew Tsangeos threw a pass to an uncovered Alec Greenawalt.
The Rebels appeared to catch a break when they recovered the onside kick at the Rio Hondo Prep 48-yard line. Flintridge Prep, however, couldn't convert.
“We had the potential right there to at least tie it up,” said Harrison, the reigning All-Area Football Coach of the Year. “We couldn't convert on a couple of plays.”
The Kares then scored four second-quarter touchdowns to build a comfortable 49-14 halftime lead.
Tayco made it 28-14 on a 27-yard run with 10:18 left in the first half. Oswaldo Rosales then caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from Bolinger to make it 35-14 less than three minutes later.
Tayco later scored on a 24-yard run to give the Kares a 42-14 lead with 2:39 to play in the second quarter. Rio Hondo Prep closed out the first-half scoring on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Bolinger to Holguin with 1:12 to go.
The Kares scored two third-quarter touchdowns to build a 63-14 lead. Smith then finished the scoring on a four-yard run with 7:27 left in the fourth quarter.
Flintridge Prep will next meet visiting Webb in a league contest at 7 p.m. Oct. 26 at La Cañada High.