Story and photos by Christian Romo
Rolandiss Whitener already had a kickoff return touchdown taken back because of a penalty earlier in the game. “I was not happy. We were supposed to be up by more, no close game,” he said.
So when a flag dropped again after his 85-yard interception return in the fourth quarter, the Arcadia sideline celebrated not when the junior safety crossed the goal line, but when the referee signaled a penalty for La Salle.
“All I saw was touchdown,” he said, “nobody was going to catch me.”
Behind a fast defense and two fourth-quarter touchdowns, the Arcadia Apaches (1-0) sealed a 20-10 road win over the La Salle Lancers (0-1). Though falling behind due to penalties and a lost fumble in the first half, seniors Charles Guerra and Max Davila settled the offense and helped the Apaches take the lead for good in the fourth quarter.
Guerra’s patient running led all rushers with 67 yards on 18 carries, though he deflected the credit to his offensive line.
“They were the ones getting the blocks down, opening up holes for me. Those guys helped me guide me through were I was supposed to go,” he said.
Though passing more effectively in the first half than the second, Davila pitched in 143 yards and two touchdowns on 11 of 21 passing, adding 32 yards on 8 rushes. “[Davila] was up and down,” said Policky, “he made some big throws…he left some plays out there, and I think he’ll be better going forward.”
After a year in which they emerged as Pasadena’s best team, La Salle began the 2017 season with much hope, but few bright spots. The offense struggled to find a rhythm, scoring only once on a field goal after a blocked punt in the first quarter, and even switching from sophomore quarterback Chris Wilson (17) to sophomore backup Kevin Lima (7) at halftime with little success. The Lancer’s most promising drive came in the fourth quarter with a chance to go up by ten points, but Whitener’s interception return gave the Apaches a momentum swing they kept for good.
Arcadia’s front seven limited La Salle to 12 rushing yards in the first half and sacked the quarterback four times in the second, forcing punts on all but four of La Salle’s possessions.
“Defensively, we gave up a field goal off a blocked punt, and that was it,” said Policky. La Salle’s only touchdown came off a kickoff return to begin the third quarter. “We didn’t give up any home run plays, tackled well in space…they got at it,” said Policky of his defense.
Though the Apaches earned a solid non-conference win, defending Angelus League champion Cathedral and perennial powerhouse Hart both come to Arcadia in the next two weeks. Policky has faith in his team, but also sees room for improvement.
“We need to clean up some of the penalties…that was a point of emphasis in practice this week, but we took too many backbreaking penalties this week,” he said. Guerra hopes his team can build better chemistry and spirit. “That’s the only thing that’s going to get us through,” he said.
“We’re not going to get on each other about what we’re doing wrong, we have to pick each other up.”