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BUENA PARK >> The La Habra football team are known for playing the most difficult non-league schedule in the Freeway League, and it is not uncommon for the Highlanders to enter the league with a loss record.
That was the case on Friday when the Highlanders faced Sunny Hills at Buena Park High School in the Freeway League opener for both teams.
The Highlanders beat the Lancers 41-20, claiming their first victory of the season and once again showing that they are the team to beat in the Freeway League.
Even with four league games remaining, the victory could end up deciding the league champion.
La Habra (1-5, 1-0) won after a 0-5 against quality opponents outside the league.
“We played good teams,” La Habra coach Frank Mazzotta said of the Highlanders’ non-league opponents. “No doubt about it. They were talented. We always face the best possible teams to prepare for the playoffs.”
Three big games gave the Highlanders a 21-0 lead.
CJ Zackery ran down the middle through a gaping hole for a 71-yard touchdown, giving the Highlanders a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
Justin Gil connected with Jacob Apodaca for a 20-yard touchdown in the second quarter, and Marcus Works returned a 63-yard punt for a score giving the Highlanders a 21-0 halftime lead.
La Habra started to pull away when Gil threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Bryce Whitley in the third play of the scrum in the third quarter.
The Highlanders were driving again when Miguel Berrios managed an interception, giving the Lancers (3-3, 0-1) possession of their 35s.
The Lancers covered 44 yards in their first practice, but were then limited to 20, 12, 2 and 9 yards, respectively, in their next four first-half practices.
Sunny Hills then put in his best practice of the game, going 65 yards on 10 plays and scoring on a 3-yard run from David Maho.
But the Lancers couldn’t stop the Highlanders, who scored touchdowns on the 32-yard run from Dathan Lui and a 17-yard pass from Gil to Apodaca.
Gil completed 7 of 16 passes for 165 yards and three touchdowns.
Lancers quarterback Max Spero scored 11 for 19 for 123 yards and a touchdown.
Mazzotta said he was unsure of the impact of the winless record in non-league games in which division the Highlanders would be placed under the new playoff format.
“We can’t be very high with a 0-5,” Mazzotta said. “But that could change, as long as the teams that beat us keep winning and our schedule strength increases and we keep winning, then our schedule strength will increase.”