Santa Margarita finished it's eighth varsity season with a 13-1 record and captured the Sea View League Championship and the CIF-SS Division V Championship. The Eagles finished the regular season as the third ranked school in Orange County and ranked second in Division V. The No. 3 ranking in the County was the best ever. Santa Margarita also finished ranked 16th in the state. The Eagles set plenty of team records during the season including wins (13), points scored (486), touchdowns (65), total yards (5,570, and All-League First Teamers (7). The Eagles also tied the school record with five shutouts and have managed to keep the opponents from scoring a touchdown for a record 32 consecutive series. The table below shows how the 1996 teams compared to two of the better teams in Eagle history.
Leading the way last year were several players who made their mark on Eagle history. RB Billy Newman set the tone in Week 1 with 364 yards rushing at Trabuco Hills and never looked back as he rushed for 2,320 yards and scored 24 Td's on his way to setting 24 school records. OT Stan Bennet paved the way to the endzone by establishing school records for decleaters in season (39.5) and in a career (59.5). LB/FB Damien Minna collected 115 tackles and managed 242 yards on the ground. Fellow senior WR/SS Brett Crowder added 18 receptions and 92 tackles. Juniors Andrew Holstein, John Minardi, Carson Palmer, and Nick Sparks each contributed substantially to the Eagles success.
The Eagles finished their playoff run with three consecutive shutouts including a 38-0 win at home vs. Valencia, an impressive 31-0 win on the road over a talented Tustin High team in Week 13, and of course a 38-0 win over league rival Newport Harbor in the CIF Championship game.
The Eagles have held their four playoff opponents to a total of 666 yards. An average of 166.5 per game. They also outscored the opposition 158-6 in those games. On the season the Eagles held their opponents to 2.9 yards per rush, but in the playoffs they limited the opposition to 297 yards on 140 carries for a mere 2.1 yard average.
During their 11 game winning streak, the Eagles outscored their opponents 394-85 and average margin of victory of 28 points.
The Eagles posted their 11th consecutive win and fifth shutout of the season with an impressive 38-0 victory over Sea View League rival Newport Harbor (12-2) before an estimated crowd of 8,000 in the 1996 CIF Division V Championship game at Cal State Fullerton. Billy Newman rushed for 253 yards and 2 Td's, Carson Palmer passed for a career high 245 yards and 3 Td's to John Minardi and DE Austin Jayred tied a school record with 4 sacks as the Eagles won their first ever CIF Football Championship. The Eagles wasted little time as Billy Newman returned the opening kickoff 40 yards to the sailor 49. On first down the Eagles called the same play they started the season with as Carson Palmer handed to Newman, who the pitched back to Palmer who passed to a streaking John Minardi for a TD and a quick 7-0 lead. On the Eagles' second possession Palmer hit WR Billy O'Connor with a post pattern and it looked as if the Eagles would score again, but he was stripped at the goal line and the ball rolled through the back of the end zone. After forcing the Sailors to punt, the Eagles needed two plays to score as Palmer faked an end around and passed to Minardi for a 68-yard TD to make it 13-0 as the first quarter came to an end. In the second quarter it was more of the same. Sparks made up for his missed PAT with a career long 43-yard FG to up the score to 16-0. Billy Newman then added 91- and 1- yard TD runs to make it 31-0 with 3:34 left in the half. After stopping the Sailors on down the Santa Margarita offense needed just 31 seconds to score again as Palmer hit Minardi for the last time on a 38 yard hook up. The Eagles gained 425 yards in the first half alone on their way to 546 - second best in school history. On defense the Eagles held the Sailors to 0 or less yards on 33 plays, and 13 of standout Ray Ohrel's 25 carries were of on yard or less. In the third quarter the Eagles had a goal line stand to remember as the Sailors had first down at the one, but were turned back on three running plays before Damien Minna and Andrew Holstien recorded a sack on 4th and goal from the three.