Sophomore Angelo Ornelas goes under center for passing downs in Lowell’s two-quarterback system.
It turns out he can also run the ball when needed.
Ornelas ran four times for 72 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Cardinals picked up their first win of the season, 23-6 over Mission on Friday afternoon at Kezar Stadium.
“He can do a lot of things,” head coach Danny Chan said. “He was our frosh-soph running back last year.”
Ornelas’ 30-yard touchdown in the final minute of the third quarter gave Lowell (1-3, 1-0 Academic Athletic Association) a two-score lead, and his 32-yard run with 1:55 left put the game out of reach.
Mission (0-4, 0-1) broke the shutout with 1:25 left on Taevon Mitchell’s 87-yard kick return touchdown. It marked the fourth time the Bears had reached the end zone, but the other three were all erased by penalties.
“We’re a young team with no experience on the varsity level,” acting head coach Antoine Porter said. “We’re a really explosive team, so buckling down on penalties is important.”
Mitchell had an 89-yard touchdown in the second quarter and a 92-yard kick return in the third both wiped out by flags, and Zaden Cato’s 75-yard return on the opening kickoff was negated by a blatant hold nowhere near the play.
Playing with a roster that’s been in a constant state of flux has done the Bears no favors. Not only is starting quarterback Adrian Chavarria still sidelined by a broken wrist, backup Diego Ramirez was unable to play after concussion symptoms returned on Thursday. They were also without head coach Terrill Vinson, who was attending to a family emergency, and top linebacker Isiah Pearson.
Josiah Herrera completed seven of 16 passes for 76 yards, but 14 penalties for 76 yards, including five delay of game flags, plagued Mission. Two of those delay of game penalties left the Bears with fourth-and-goal at the 18 on the opening drive. The Bears also ventured into the red zone when trailing 16-0 in the fourth quarter, but a Jason Gao interception maintained Lowell’s two-score lead. Four minutes later, Brandon Yee gained 33 yards and Ornelas scored from 32 yards out.
“We actually wanted him to just get the first down and run out the clock,” Chan said.
The Cardinals led 8-0 at halftime on a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Tomas La Sala, the running half of the two-QB system, and Gavin Barry-Smith’s two-point conversion. That opening score was a product of two punts; Selvin Gonzalez’s 47-yard kick pinned the Bears at their own 11 late in the first quarter, and Mission’s shanked punt three plays into the second put the Cardinals 10 yards away from scoring.
“Selvin was awesome,” Chan said of his 230-pound punter, who also starts at tackle. “He’s a three-way guy.”
Gonzalez also pinned Mission at the 5 midway through the second quarter.
“I played soccer as a child, so I just brought those skills to football,” he said.
Anthony Irias’ interception in the third quarter, with help from Jacob Tubig in double coverage, set up Ornelas’ first touchdown and another Barry-Smith two-point conversion. The primary rusher in Lowell’s double wing offense, Barry-Smith ran 16 times for 86 yards.
Cato had three catches for 42 yards and forced a fumble that Iziah Singleton recovered for the Bears in the second quarter. Only a junior, Cato has the potential to be Mission’s next great dynamic athlete, following in the footsteps of Niamey Harris and Porter, who graduated from the school in 2013 and played in college at Eastern Michigan.
“It’s really cool to come back here and try to help the next generation improve and get better,” Porter said.
Mission visits Lincoln (1-3) at 2 p.m. next Saturday. Lowell has a bye before hosting rival Washington (4-1, 1-0) at 3 p.m. on Fri., Oct. 14.