Eagles 43 - Rialto 30

MISSION VIEJO, CA., November 16, 2001 – Ashton White rushed 33 times for 254 yards and tied a school record with 26 points and four touchdowns to lead the Eagles to a convincing 43-30 win over the Rialto Knights before a capacity crowd of 5,000 at Saddleback College. The win was Santa Margarita's first Division I playoff victory and propelled them into the quarterfinals for the first time since the 1998 season when they competed in Division VI.

Things started off well at first for the Knights as speedy wingback Dramayne McElroy took a pitch and raced 76 yards for a touchdown just 22 seconds into the game. The Eagles quickly responded as Marshall Tharpe found Bobby Whithorne three times on the ensuing drive to set up White's first Td from 25 yards out to tie the score at 7-7 with 8:13 still left in the quarter. Rialto proceeded to go on an 8:17 drive that took 16 plays and covered 74 yards capped by McElroy's two-yard scoring run. From this point on the Eagles had control of the game.

After Thomas Cappelletti stripped Knight QB Joe McShan on the Rialto 44 White's number was called six consecutive times leading to a fourth-and-goal situation on the visitor's one. An illegal procedure penalty moved the ball back to the six, but rather than try for a field goal Tharpe found TE Dustin Slinkard alone in the endzone to tie the score at 14-14. Rialto next drive stalled and after two illegal procedure penalties on fourth down Cole DeVitis finally broke free and blocked Alec Whitesell's punt which was scooped up by Joe Ramsey at the 11 where he ran in untouched to give the Eagles a 21-14 lead going into halftime.

DeVitis worked his special teams magic again when he took the second half kickoff back 57 yards to give Santa Margarita first down at the Knight 34. The Eagles needed only 1:52 to score as White ran for 5, 6, 6, 2 and finally 15 yards to increase the lead to 27-14 with 10:08 left in the third quarter. DeVitis's partial block of another punt on Rialto's next possession helped set up a four-yard run by White at the 5:18 mark to further increase the lead. Tharpe found Jason Graban at the goal line for the two-point conversion to make it 35-14.

Rialto didn't give up as they marched 80 yards in only 3:50 to creep closer at 35-22 near the end of the third quarter. After Cappelletti recovered the onsides kick White used runs of 14 and 25 yards to set up his fourth touchdown of the game from a yard out to make it 41-22. Ashton's two-point conversion run made it 43-22 and gave him 26 total points on the day which tied him with Josh Ireland for most points in a game. A late touchdown by McShan closed out the scoring.

Going into the game the focus was on stopping Rialto's potent double-wing attack. In eight possessions the Knights gained at least 74 yards and scored touchdowns on four of them - their first two and last two. However, in four consecutive possessions spanning the second and third quarters, when the Eagles took control of the game, they managed only 53 yards and one first down on 19 plays to see a seven point lead turn into a 21 point deficit. DeVitis once again earned Defensive and Special Teams Player of the Game honors as he led the charge with 13 tackles while Trevor Zinn and Jack Meehan collected 11 and Brad Dillahunty added 10. DE Mike Leiter continued his dominating ways by collecting his 13th sack on the season to move within ½ a sack of the school single season record.

Santa Margarita 7 14 14 8 43
Rialto 7 7 8 8 30

RIA – McElroy 76 run (kick good)
SM – White 25 run (kick good)
RIA – McElroy 2 run (kick good)
SM – Slinkard 6 pass from Tharpe (kick good)
SM – J. Ramsey 11 punt block return (kick good)
SM – White 15 run
SM – White 4 run (Graban pass from Tharpe)
RIA – Touchdown run (2pt good)
SM – White 1 run (White run)
RIA – McShan run (2pt good)

Rushing: SM - White 33-254


By Adrian Peters
Sports Information Director