Santa Margarita took out an early lead over El Toro on Friday night, ending the first quarter 7 to 0. This early lead was made despite the Eagles’ inability to get on solid ground in the first half. Multiple incomplete passes limited SM’s points to 10 in the first 24 minutes of play, while El Toro’s good throw-n-go game allowed them to make up for lost ground quickly, scoring a 49 yard TD with 49 seconds left in the second, followed by a complete PAT kick which brought the final score of the first half to 10-7.
After halftime, the Eagles came back with renewed focus. Their offence, which had been shaky in the first half, became far more solid with less incomplete passes than in the first. SM’s quarterback Kyle Sweet explained how they were able to turn it around. “At half time we just came together. We said this could be some of the seniors’ last game and we wanted to make a statement, so we just came out and we played with a lot of intensity in the second half for sure.”
What really saved SM from having to fight a close battle, however, was their defense. After the half, the Eagles tightened up their D-line, sacking El Toro quarterback Conner Manning multiple times, and causing the Chargers to begin making incomplete passes of their own. El Toro’s primary receivers of the game, Cody White and Alec Shoffeitt, were put under increased pressure by SM’s defense, which limited the Chargers scoring ability significantly.
Sweet commented on Coach Welch’s instructions to adjust to El Toro’s receivers in the first half. “We knew that they (Shoffeitt and White) were both very good players but we didn’t really key on them specifically. We practiced hard all week on defense and it definitely showed tonight.” SM’s ability to focus on the bigger picture especially when under fire from all sides spoke volumes about how well the team has managed become one functioning unit in the post-Johnny Stanton era.
The game was decisive despite multiple flags thrown against SM throughout the evening. Notable examples include Ryan Wolpin getting called for holding at 10:37 in the 2nd quarter as he ran the ball in for a touchdown, and a personal foul called on SM before Connor O’Brien received a TD pass in the 4th. “There’s always some question about home town refs but we definitely made some mistakes that we shouldn’t of tonight,” said Sweet regarding the fairness of the ref’s calls. “We’ll definitely have to work on that next week, just limiting penalties.” With the first round of CIF secured tightly under their belt, SM now moves forward to round two in an attempt to fight their way back to the League Championship. (Game time and location TBA)