Los Alamitos football ‘frustrated’ after great start turns into loss to Basha of Arizona

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WESTMINSTER — Los Alamitos’ football team entered its game Saturday against Basha of Arizona looking to rebound against another nationally-ranked opponent.

For most of the first quarter, the Griffins seemed well on their way.

But an ejection to star wide receiver Makai Lemon, some key personal fouls and a speedy offense from the desert wiped away a promising start by Malachi Nelson and delivered frustration for Los Alamitos.

Basha, the third-ranked team in Arizona and No. 62 in the nation by MaxPreps, rallied from a 21-point deficit late in the first quarter to defeat the Griffins 33-28 at Westminster High.

Los Alamitos (1-2), ranked 53rd in the nation by MaxPreps, lost one week after falling 56-27 to No. 15 American Heritage in Florida.

The Griffins led 21-0 when Lemon received his second unsportsmanlike penalty late in the first quarter.

21-0 ⁦@LosAlFootball⁩ but Lemon picks up 2nd straight unsportsmanlike after TD and could be ejected ⁦@ocvarsity⁩

— Dan Albano (@ocvarsityguy) September 4, 2022

Basha (1-0) responded with four unanswered touchdowns but the Griffins recovered to take a 28-27 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Basha dual-threat quarterback Demond Williams Jr. supplied the go-ahead score with a 26-yard TD run about three minutes later. The junior capitalized on a drive aided early by consecutive penalties by the Los Alamitos defense, including a personal foul.

“Extremely frustrated,” Los Alamitos coach Ray Fenton said of the loss. “We got to stick together.”

Los Alamitos’ offense went three-and-out after Williams’ score and the Bears ran out the final five minutes despite having two touchdowns negated by penalties.

Senior defensive end Sinn Brennan was a bright spot for the Griffins with three sacks in a 33-28 loss against Basha of Arizona at Westminster High on Saturday. (Photo by Dan Albano, Orange County Register/SCNG)Senior defensive end Sinn Brennan was a bright spot for the Griffins with three sacks in a 33-28 loss against Basha of Arizona at Westminster High on Saturday. (Photo by Dan Albano, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Basha ended the game at Los Alamitos 4-yard line but that certainly wasn’t enough to lift the Griffins’ spirits.

“Our players are immaculate. It’s just a team thing,” said Los Alamitos defensive end Sinn Brennan, a bright spot with three sacks and two passes batted down. “We’re not a team right now. We got to become a team.

“I feel like as the season goes on, we’re going to come together more, for sure.”

Los Alamitos took a 28-27 on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Nelson to Kassius Ashtiani with 9:31 left in the fourth.

Nelson tossed only five passes in the second half and finished 17 of 27 for 189 yards and three scores. Ashtiani, a transfer from Mater Dei, had six catches for 80 yards.

Los Alamitos opened a 21-0 lead with about a minute left in the first quarter on Lemon’s 8-yard touchdown reception from Nelson, his fellow USC commit. But Lemon was flagged for his second unsportsmanlike penalty and ejected from the game.

The replay showed he pointed at the defender after the score.

Basha planned to cover Lemon with Oregon committed senior cornerback Cole Martin.

.⁦@Malachi⁩ ▶️ ⁦@getabagkai⁩ ⁦@ocvarsity⁩

— Dan Albano (@ocvarsityguy) September 4, 2022

Lemon also received an unsportsmanlike penalty after his 15-yard touchdown reception gave Los Alamitos a 14-0 lead. He spun the football on the ground after receiving the touchdown signal but quickly picked the ball up.

.⁦@Malachi⁩ ▶️ ⁦@getabagkai⁩ ⁦@ocvarsity⁩

— Dan Albano (@ocvarsityguy) September 4, 2022

Basha tied the score 21-21 before halftime and took its first lead on a 5-yard TD catch by senior running back Deshaun Buchanan on a deflection in the third.

Buchanan, an Idaho commit, rushed for 233 yards on 28 carries while Williams added 185 yards passing and three touchdowns. Junior wide receiver Bryson Dedmon added seven catches for 94 yards and two TDs, including a 63-yarder.

Basha, featuring 14 players with scholarship offers, racked up 489 yards offense.

“We wanted to play a top California team,” Basha coach Chris McDonald said before the game. “I called Coach Fenton … and he said ‘Yeah, we’re open to it.’ “

Los Alamitos running back Damian Henderson, a Colorado State commit, rushed for 165 yards and a score on 24 carries.

The Griffins again played without highly-recruited junior defensive lineman T.A. Cunningham, a transfer from Georgia who has his hardship pending with the CIF Southern Section, Fenton said.

Los Alamitos plays Servite (1-2) at Cerritos College next week.

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