Flintridge Prep’s Willingham Leads Win Over CIF Champs

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(Photo by Sebastian Moore / OUTLOOK) - Flintridge Prep junior Noah Willingham rushed for a team-high 262 total yards on 22 carries and four receptions with five touchdowns to help the Wolves win their season opener over the defending CIF 8-Man Division I champion Cate High of Carpinteria.

First published in the Sept. 8 print issue of the Pasadena Outlook.

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The season opener for the Flintridge Prep varsity 8-man football team was no easy challenge, as the Wolves battled last year’s Division I CIF champion Cate High of Carpinteria at Prep last Friday. But thanks to a fourth-quarter comeback, the Wolves knocked off Cate 40-26 in the nonleague opener.
Junior running back Noah Willingham, who finished with 22 carries for 215 yards and 47 yards on four receptions, helped spark the late rally by registering four of his five total touchdowns in the second half.
“It wasn’t just on me; it’s my linemen, my fullbacks, my receivers — this is a team effort,” Willingham said. “Last year after we lost in the first round [of the CIF Division I playoffs], we all looked at ourselves and said, ‘Do we want this?’ And we want it. We put in a lot of hours in the summer and now we’re ready; it’s time.”
Flintridge Prep and Cate entered the fourth quarter in a 20-20 deadlock, but that changed immediately when Cate scored a touchdown with 11:42 remaining.
The Wolves answered right back as junior quarterback Alex Chorba connected with Willingham on a 27-yard passing touchdown. Unlike Cate, the Wolves avoided a two-point conversation and instead let senior Eq Willis notch his first of two successful PATs in the quarter, claiming a narrow 27-26 lead in the process.
Flintridge Prep didn’t squander that lead either, as a pair of touchdowns by Willingham and another PAT by Willis helped run the score to a comfortable 14-point lead with 4:25 remaining in the last quarter.
An explosive offense paired with a sturdy defense that allowed Cate to score just once in the last quarter helped the Wolves pull off the victory.
Senior Griffin Theis led the defense with a team-high eight tackles and a fumble recovery, while senior Sam Symington added seven tackles. Freshman Will Grable tallied six tackles and a fumble recovery, while senior Luca Yeghnazar and Willis each posted six tackles. Noah Willingham and senior Peter Peutet each collected five tackles and a sack, freshman Mac Peutet had three tackles, and senior Luke Chapman logged one tackle.
“Grable came out as a freshman in his first game and played well. Sam is coming into his own and I am glad he got off to a good start,” Flintridge Prep head coach Russell White said. “The whole defense did very well today. They are a bunch of young guys – some seasoned, some not – but just a great job on defense. That kept us in the game for the most part.”
After a low-scoring first quarter that saw Cate jump to an early 6-0 lead, the Flintridge Prep defense began pressuring Cate’s offense. An key deflection by junior Kevin Zhang catapulted the ball right into the arms of Willingham, who posted a pick-six on the play to get the Wolves on the board and tie the game, 6-6, with 7:16 remaining in the second quarter.
With just under six minutes remaining in the first half, senior Nnamdi Nwaenia returned a kickoff for a 75-yard touchdown to tie the game, 12-12.
Chorba, who completed seven passes for 99 yards, connected with Zhang on a successful two-point conversion to give the Wolves their first lead of the contest. Nwaenia finished with a pair of catches for 42 yards and rushed for five yards on one carry, while Zhang had three tackles on defense.
Sophomore Aj Carre finished with two carries for 28 yards and a pair of tackles, while freshman Owen Willingham made a 10-yard catch.
“I’m happy for the kids. They showed resilience, they showed heart, passion and desire. Cate is a great program, and when I scheduled them I knew we were going to get a great test,” White said. “Great win for us; kudos all the way around.”
The Wolves (1-0 overall) will hit the road and visit Lone Pine in a nonleague game on Friday, Sept. 9, at 7 p.m.