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California stays focused in Mapletown

| Monday, Oct. 4, 2004

MAPLETOWN -- With the California Area football team coming off an upset victory over Monessen, Trojans coach Joe Kuhns feared a letdown Friday night.

Thanks to senior quarterback Matt Hyita, the coach can rest much easier this weekend.

"It's hard to have your A-game each week," Kuhns said. "We did what we had to do."

What the Trojans (4-2, 2-2) did was win their second consecutive Tri-County South conference game at Mapletown 17-10, handing the host Maples (2-4, 1-3) their third conference defeat. The win puts the Trojans in the thick of the playoff race while damaging the Maples' hopes.

Led by Hyita, the Trojans outgained the Maples in total yardage, 265-192. The senior quarterback would account for 137 yards, running for 94 yards and passing for 43 yards. The most significant of his rushes came with 2:22 remaining in the game. Hyita called his own number and scored on a 12-yard touchdown run putting the Trojans ahead for good.

Hyita also starred defensively with six tackles and an interception as Mapletown was driving at the end of the first half.

The Trojans' defense held the strong rushing attack of Mapletown in check, holding standout junior Ryan Geisel to 69 yards on 14 carries. Maples coach George Messich was surprised to see Geisel rush at all.

"Last night at practice, we thought Ryan broke his ankle," Messich said. "He left here on crutches. How he played on that ankle is beyond me, it was as big as a volleyball."

The Maples started strong as their second series would start at the California 25-yard line, but they were held to a John Grim field goal. California held when Brad Wright made a diving deflection of quarterback John Caldwell's pass on third and goal.

California would get on the board on its first possession of the second quarter. Freshman Donte Valentino (10 carries, 39 yards) dashed 12 yards for a touchdown giving the Trojans a 7-3 lead, which the Trojans would carry into the locker room at halftime.

The Trojans extended their lead on the opening series of the second half. Hyita started things off with a 31-yard run to the Maples' 27-yard line. Six plays later, California kicker Ian Glumac booted a 32-yard field goal that barely squeaked over the crossbar, making the score 10-3.

The Maples would not be denied tying the score at 10 with an 11-play, 60-yard drive capped off by Geisel's 2-yard scoring run, regaining the lead.

"I told the kids at the beginning of the year that we were going to be involved in many close games," Messich said. "Of course, tonight wasn't going to be any different."

The teams were tied heading into the fourth quarter, as California appeared poised to take the lead, but a Valentino run to Mapletown's 5-yard line was called back due to an illegal chop block, forcing the Trojans to punt.

The Trojans held Mapletown to a four-and-out deep in their own territory, positioning themselves with great field position to make their final drive.

After having their first two plays only gain three yards, Hyita converted on third down, hitting Joel Costello for 22 yards. Four plays later, Hyita called his own number for the final touchdown.

"We kept running the same play and were only a hair away," Kuhns said. "This time he broke it."

With his team bringing its A-game once again, Kuhns can wait until Monday to worry again.

The Trojans host Jefferson-Morgan Friday.

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