First published in the Sept. 29 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
It was another impressive performance by the undefeated Flintridge Prep varsity football team as it blanked visiting Thacher High of Ojai, 34-0, in a nonleague game last Thursday.
Thacher, which was ranked No. 1 in the final CIF-SS Eight-Man Division 1 poll in 2021, was no match for the defense that posted its first shutout since last October.
“It was a great team effort. We’ve probably been getting ready for these guys for six or seven months — ever since we lost to them lost year,” Flintridge Prep head coach Russell White said. “Defense is always going to win championships, let’s just say that. I’m an offensive guy but I can’t go anywhere without defense. I’m very impressed with the way the kids played.”
The Wolves’ defense was solid all night long, limiting Thacher to six plays per drive and forcing four turnovers on downs. Senior Griffin Theis amassed 16 tackles, freshman Will Grable racked up 14 tackles, and senior Luke Chapman collected nine tackles to lead the sturdy defense.
“Griffin came up and made some great tackles; he’s my ‘sleeper’ guy,” White said. “He came to play, but as a whole, the defense is gelling well right now.”
Flintridge Prep got on the board on the first play of the second quarter. On 3rd-and-goal, junior quarterback Alex Chorba, who completed 7-of-13 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown, lunged into the end zone for a 1-yard score and senior placekicker Eq Willis quickly made it 7-0 after a successful PAT.
It took under two minutes and four plays for the Wolves to find the end zone again on their next drive in the second quarter. The running game helped Flintridge Prep secure a pair of first downs before Chorba connected with senior Jack Jones on 2nd-and-10 for a 15-yard touchdown with 7:42 remaining in the first half.
The Wolves threatened again on their last play of the second quarter when Chorba found senior Nnamdi Nwaenia wide open for a 43-yard pass. However, Thatcher’s defense stopped Nwaenia on the 20-yard line to hold Flintridge Prep at a two-touchdown advantage at the end of the first half. Nwaenia added a 15-yard reception later in the game.
Flintridge Prep opened the final quarter already in scoring position, as a 4-yard carry by junior Noah Willingham found the end zone. Willingham, who finished with 147 yards on 20 carries, previously extended the lead in the third quarter on a 30-yard rushing touchdown to cap a 35-second drive as the only scoring play of the quarter.
“Ever since I’ve been here, we’ve been a passing team. Now we’re becoming a run team,” White said. “We’re running the ball really well so to me it’s a change, but in a good way. It adds a lot of dimensions to our game.”
Jones, who replaced Chorba at quarterback in the final quarter, connected with senior Luca Yeghnazar on a 7-yard touchdown to cap a two-minute drive in the middle of the fourth quarter. Willis notched his fourth PAT to give Flintridge Prep a 34-0 advantage.
The Wolves had possession for the final four minutes of the game, gaining small yardage before Jones ran out the clock. Jones completed 3-of-5 passes for 34 yards as quarterback, while Yeghnazar had six tackles on defense and a pair of receptions for 18 yards, including his scoring play in the last quarter.
Luke Chapman and freshman Owen Willingham each made a pair of catches for 53 and 11 yards, respectively, while sophomore Aj Carre rushed for 52 yards on four carries.
Senior Sam Symington posted five tackles and an interception, senior Oscar Yum produced five tackles, and junior Kevin Zhang registered four tackles. Senior Mac Peutet recorded three tackles, Willis finished with three tackles, and sophomore Miles Yum and freshman Nico Chapman each made one tackle.
Flintridge Prep (3-0 overall record) has a bye this week and will return to action by hosting Grace Brethren High of Simi Valley in a nonleague game on Thursday, Oct. 6, at 6 p.m.