Heritage's Big Plays Offset Mistakes in Win Over La Quinta

Heritage High quarterback Brett Virgil breaks out of the pack en route to an 89-yard touchdown run...

Heritage High quarterback Brett Virgil breaks out of the pack en route to an 89-yard touchdown run.
How does a football team overcome 125 yards in penalties?

Run 60 yards for a touchdown, that's how. And 89 yards. And 80 yards, on a pass play. Oh yeah, and recover two of the opposition's fumbles.

A few big plays made up for a lot of little mistakes Friday night as defending CIF champion Heritage High School held on to defeat host La Quinta, 27-26, in its season opener.

Junior quarterback Brett Virgil passed for 138 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 137 yards and another score for the Patriots. Senior running back Isaiah Morrow (left) ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns. But it was the stunning effect of big plays that lifted Heritage past La Quinta and enabled the Patriots to overcome all those illegal procedure and holding penalties.

"Turnovers played a key on defense," said Heritage coach Kraig Broach, seen talking to Virgil in photo below. "That kept us in the game early. As many mistakes as we made on offense, there were a lot of big plays that kept us afloat when we needed it.

"I really respect that about the guys. We're young and we're going to get better. I like the way they played through things. There were a lot of guys who went down tonight and kids that stepped into positions they normally don't play.

"We just found a way to win. It wasn't pretty, but it's a win."

Morrow burst through the line and raced 60 yards down the left sideline on the first play of a drive in the first quarter, helping the Patriots tie the score at 7-7. That followed a Heritage fumble recovery. An ensuing Heritage drive was marred by penalties, forcing a third-and-long situation deep in Patriots territory. That's when Virgil broke out of a pack of defenders and raced 89 yards for a TD.

Heritage led 14-13 at halftime thanks to a missed PAT kick by La Quinta's Lucas Norblom. Then on the first play of the third quarter, Virgil connected on a short pass to Marcus McIntosh, who avoided a tackle and ran 80 yards into the end zone for a score that gave Heritage a 20-13 lead (after a failed PAT kick).

Heritage took a 27-20 lead with 8:15 left in the game on Morrow's 2-yard run and a PAT kick by Tyler Baca. That score was set up by the recovery of a La Quinta fumble return by the Patriots' Logan Dreese.

La Quinta wasn't finished, however. Running back Chris Rom-Turibio broke through the Heritage defense for a 33-yard touchdown run with 6:09 left, cutting Heritage's lead to 27-26. La Quinta's running attempt for a two-point conversion and the lead was stopped by the Heritage defense, however. La Quinta got the ball one more time but was again stopped short by the Patriot defense.

"We played well enough, but our mistakes were terrible," Morrow said. "We need to fix that. We bend but we don't break. It will get fixed by next week."

Broach also praised the play of linebacker Christian Decker-Wieble, who made several key stops for the Patriots.

"He was making the big plays when he was in there," Broach said. "A lot of guys came through. It was a big test and I hope we can build on this."

Christian Decker-Wieble (58) brings down La Quinta quarterback Michael Avina in the first quarter.

Logan Dreese of the Patriots comes away with the football after recovering a fumble in the fourth quarter.

Jalen Glover breaks free for a big gain in the first half Friday night.

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