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Kapler brothers, Bryant help Malibu stay undefeated

Dane Kapler (22) sprints toward the end zone in the Sharks’ Friday, Sept. 8 home game against Beverly Hills. Photos by Suzy Demeter/22nd Century Media
Dane Kapler (22) blocks a Beverly Hills defender as running back Elijaah Bryant (21) runs the ball down the Malibu High School field Friday, Sept. 8.
The Malibu High School sharks burst through the banner as the Sept. 8 game begins.
Dane Kapler (22) runs for a touchdown in the Sharks' Friday, Sept. 8 game against Beverly Hills.
Riley Banducci (63) and Dovid Rabinowich (54) play for the Sharks.
Liam Moore (33) corrals the ball.
Riley Banducci (63) gets in a defensive stance.
Max Gordon (2) plays for the Sharks Friday, Sept. 8, when the team beat Beverly Hills 19-14.
The Sharks tackle the opponent Friday, Sept. 8, at home.
Ryan Flynn, Freelance Reporter
11:47 am PDT September 10, 2017

The Sharks remain undefeated after grinding out a 19-14 victory under the lights Friday, Sept. 8, thanks in large part to a transfer student and the Kapler brothers. 

After a 48-0 blowout win to open their season and a forfeit that basically served as a bye, the Sharks entered the second of four home games of the season without allowing a single point. 

However, Beverly Hills proved to be a much more competitive matchup. It took fourth quarter heroics and some timely breaks to seal the win, but the Sharks are now 3-0. 

“Nobody thought that we’d be 3-0 after three games this year and I’m just really proud of these kids,” coach Terry Shorten said after the game.

The Kaplers had their fingerprints all over this one. The younger brother, Dane, was the first to put his mark on the ballgame. Beverly Hills, relying on a strong running game, got off to an early lead. A touchdown drive in the first quarter and a failed two-point conversion gave them a 6-0 lead. 

That lead lasted for roughly 10 seconds. On the ensuing kickoff, Dane Kapler caught the ball, cut right, found a lane, and quickly saw nothing but green in front of him on his way to a long touchdown. After the extra point, it was Sharks 7, Normans 6.

“Dane, with the kickoff return, that helped spark some momentum,” Shorten said.

The Normans seemed to have the ball for nearly the entire second quarter. They ran fake punts twice, both times catching Malibu off guard with runs of 9 and 7 yards, both for first downs. Following the first fake punt, Normans quarterback Jeremiah Klapper threw a 56-yard touchdown pass and then tossed a successful two-point conversion to put Beverly Hills ahead 14-7.

Just before halftime, the Normans marched the ball down to the Sharks 10-yard line, but penalties helped drain the clock. The officials huddled and called for halftime as the Norman offense stood, dumbfounded, just 10 yards from opening up a big lead. 

The Sharks were lucky to go into the half down just one score.

After a Malibu fumble early in the third quarter, Beverly Hills again drove down into Sharks territory, utilizing the running game that worked so well all game. However, on the Sharks’ 24-yard line, Klapper’s throw was intercepted by none other than Dane Kapler, who ran the ball back 46 yards to put his team in scoring position. Malibu was playing with fire, allowing the Normans into scoring range twice, but both times were able to escape unscathed.

With momentum on their side, the offense finally woke up. Shorten unleashed the eldest Kapler, senior quarterback Chase, who showed off his running skills in the season opener against Mark Keppel. Chase Kapler took off twice on designed runs of 20 and 14, bringing the Sharks down to Beverly Hills’ 3-yard line.

Then the wheels fell off.

The first down run was stuffed. On second down, the Sharks had a bad snap resulting in a 6-yard loss. On third, Malibu again fumbled, costing them another nine yards. They now faced fourth down and 20, down a touchdown, with a passing offense that hadn’t been working all game.

Shorten called a pass anyway, and Chase Kapler dropped back. Seeing nothing, he rolled left and broke a tackle. The senior quarterback tucked the ball away, realizing that he would need to run for the first down. He weaved through traffic, breaking a tackle, stumbling, stretching and finally hitting paydirt and getting into the end zone.

The Sharks missed the extra point, however, and still trained 14-13, despite the heroics.

Early in the fourth quarter, Beverly Hills had one more chance to put the game out of reach. Another long drive led them down to the Sharks’ 32-yard line after runs of 17 and 15 yards. However, the Normans again fumbled, recovered by Malibu.

With the sun setting and just nine minutes left, down one, Malibu mounted its best drive all day. Enter Elijaah Bryant, a sophomore running back who transferred to Malibu this year from Bishop Alemany in Mission Hills. Bryant had been bottled up for most of the day, but finally broke free late. He and Chase Kapler alternated on big runs, leading the team down to the opponent’s 24-yard line. Bryant then took a sweep right all the way to the end zone and gave his team the lead for good.

“I saw Louie [Thrall] blocking for me outside,” Bryant said. “I saw the gap, I knew I could get it and I just went.”

Up 19-14 after a failed two-point conversion, it was up to the Sharks’ defense to hold up their end of the bargain, and they did so emphatically. The next three drives went as follows: interception by cornerback Louie Thrall, turnover on downs, interception by Thrall. And just like that, the Sharks clawed back for a win.

“It was amazing,” Bryant said. “We came in, kept our head up and just kept fighting. We knew we could do it.”

Next week, Shorten said the team will face its biggest test of the year in Big Bear, a team that “took it to [them]” last year. But, for one night, at least, the team was able to bask in the glow of having a perfect record.

“It’s been a long, long time since Malibu has been 3-0,” Shorten said. “Tonight, that was a hard-fought victory. It really was. Really well-matched teams.”