The biggest question heading into Friday night's Bay League opener was whether could shut down Peninsula's potent running attack, namely senior tailback Okuoma Idah, who had been averaging 7.3 yards per carry.
The answer was a resounding "Yes!"
The Sea Hawks limited Idah to just 53 yards in 18 carries and made just enough plays on offense to grind out a 16-6 victory on homecoming night at Redondo High. It was a festive atmosphere in the stands and the Sea Hawks gave their own crowd plenty to cheer about, building a 10-0 halftime lead and sealing the deal on a 38-yard sweep by senior Ryan Spiwak late in the third quarter.
"They're an outside, off tackle team and our linemen are getting to the corner and stringing plays out," Redondo Coach Gene Simon said. "Idah is a very good player but our guys have a lot of desire and they met the challenge."
Spiwak had pulled a hamstring early in the season and had been relegated to playing just linebacker, but he had his first three carries of the year Friday night and gained 57 yards. On the third, he followed a wall of blockers on a sweep and ran up the sideline for the decisive score. He and his teammates were so excited after the play that they drew and excessive celebration penalty, moving the extra point try back 15 yards. Hunter Bradshaw missed the kick, but Redondo led by 16 points and that would be more than enough.
"This is a great feeling ... it's indescribable," Spiwak said. "To be able to score in our league opener and homecoming against a 4-1 team means everything. The coaches wanted me to play. I did what I could, blocked for my teammates and it was really big for us to stop Idah on defense. We wanted to be aggressive on defense. We were pumped."
Sophomore quarterback Harrison Faecher completed five of his 13 passes for 88 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown to junior receiver Christian Fernandez on the Sea Hawks' first series, capping a seven-play, 65-yard march. Anthony Philyaw led Redondo with 90 yards rushing in 14 carries, Deon Williams added 27 yards in 10 carries and Davion Goodall had three receptions for 36 yards.
Bradshaw increased Redondo's lead to 10-0 two possessions later on a 24-yard field goal. Peninsula had a chance to pull within a touchdown just before halftime but the snap was high on a 49-yard field goal attempt and holder Matt Hezlep's pass was batted away with 15 seconds left.
"Okuoma has been making a lot of plays for us, but hats off to their defense, they bottle him up," said Panthers Coach Adam Boyd, whose team entered Friday's game having lost only once—a 42-7 home defeat to Culver City in Week 2. "I thought our defense played great but unfortunately our offense didn't show up."
Idah entered the game having rushed for 672 yards and seven touchdowns, including 117 yards in just eight carries a week earlier in a 23-20 victory over South Torrance.
Simon said Spiwak's mere presence in the offensive huddle made an impact on the offense: "He's one of our captains and it means everything having him back."
Peninsula sophomore Ian Escutia replaced starting quarterback Matt Imwalle in the fourth quarter and, with 7:42 remaining in the game, the Panthers faced a fourth-and-8 at Redondo's 16-yard line. Escutia threw into the end zone and Hezlep stepped in front of a defender to catch it and pull his team within 10 points. On the two-point conversion, Tommy Webster couldn't hang on to Escutia's pass at the goal line and it remained a two-possession game.
Redondo's defense settled the issue once and for all on the Panthers' next drive. Cornerback Will Allagoa intercepted a long pass down the sideline at the Sea Hawks' 24-yard line with 2:57 left and Redondo proceeded to march inside Peninsula's 20 before time ran out. Imwalle completed four of six passes for 14 yards and Escutia was two-of-three for 29 yards.
"You definitely want to win that [homecoming] game," said Simon, whose team rebounded from a 33-13 loss to Orange Lutheran. "This sort of sets the tone for league. We play West [Torrance] next and it's homecoming for them. They run a spread offense, but we've already seen that from Culver City and Serra, so hopefully we'll be ready."
In Friday's other Bay League games, defending champion Mira Costa edged West Torrance 30-28 and Palos Verdes crushed Leuzinger 62-0.
Score by Quarters
Redondo -- Fernandez 31 pass from Faecher (Bradshaw kick), 7:27 left in 1st qtr.
Redondo -- Bradshaw 24 field goal, 6:13 left in 2nd qtr.
Redondo -- Spiwak 38 run (kick failed), 2:25 left in 3rd qtr.
Peninsula -- Hezlep 16 pass from Escutia (pass failed), 7:27 left in 4th qtr.
Records: Peninsula 4-2, 0-1; Redondo 2-4, 1-0.