Los Alamitos 29 - Eagles 20

Jones is the difference as the Griffins beat Santa Margarita, 29-20

LONG BEACH, CA., November 23, 2001 – When Los Alamitos played Santa Margarita in September, Griffins running back Quenton Jones had only seven carries. Santa Margarita won that game.

In Friday night's rematch, Jones had 25 carries for 192 yards and two touchdowns as Los Alamitos won, 29-20, in a CIF-Southern Section Division I second-round football playoff game at Veterans Stadium.

Los Alamitos (9-2-1) will play Long Beach Poly (10-1) in the semifinals Friday at the same site.

Poly is ranked fourth in the nation by Student Sports and has lost just once, to No. 1 De La Salle of Concord. Since the season started, Poly was just about everyone's favorite to win the Division I title, and the Jackrabbits' play in the playoffs -- a 61-23 victory over Fountain Valley in the first round and a 21-14 victory over Loyola of Los Angeles in the second round Friday -- has done little to change that thinking.

Or, as Los Alamitos coach John Barnes said immediately after his team beat Santa Margarita, "This was our bowl game. I'm going home!"

All kidding aside, Barnes is pleased with the Griffins' improvement as the season has progressed. He saw a dramatic difference between Friday night's game and the previous encounter with the Eagles.

"The last time we played them," he said, "they stopped us all night. This time, I don't think we went three-and-out one time."

Actually, Los Alamitos went three-and out on its second possession. It would be the last time the Griffins would have to punt.

The Griffins made plenty of big plays, including Jones' second touchdown run of the game, a 54-yard effort early in the fourth quarter that gave them a 26-13 lead. The Eagles cut that margin to six on a 5-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Marshall Tharpe to receiver Bobby Whithorne with 4:13 remaining. Los Alamitos clinched the victory with 1:07 left on a 35-yard field goal by Nicholas Koromelas, his first field-goal attempt of the season.

Santa Margarita took a 6-0 lead in the first quarter when Tharpe hit Brandon Clark for a 22-yard touchdown completion. The kick for the extra point missed, leaving the Eagles' lead at 6-0.

Los Alamitos responded with a touchdown on the ensuing possession. Quarterback Jeff Kline faked a handoff to Jones, fooling everyone in the stadium, then ran around the right side for a 32-yard touchdown. Kevin Garnarik kicked the extra point to give Los Alamitos a 7-6 lead.

The Griffins' defense set up their next touchdown. Los Alamitos linebacker Shay Murphy recovered a fumble at the Eagles 39, and on the Griffins' first play, Jones ran for a TD and a 13-6 lead.

Another Los Alamitos touchdown seemed to be on the way later in the second quarter as the Griffins drove to the Eagles 8. But Trevor Zinn's interception at the goal line ended that Griffins effort.

Los Alamitos was successful on its next possession. Kline perfectly led receiver Kevin Van Gorder into the end zone for a 35-yard touchdown pass to make it 20-6 with one minute left in the first half.

Santa Margarita drove 80 yards for a touchdown on its first possession of the second half. Ashton White scored on a 1-yard run to cut the Griffins' lead to 20-13.

Kline, who replaced starting quarterback Tim Bessolo four weeks ago when Bessolo went out with a knee injury (Bessolo did not suit up Friday night), was 10 for 14 for 97 yards and a touchdown with one interception. Jones was the Griffins' leading receiver, with six catches for 56 yards.

Tharpe, who has committed to Colorado State, was 17 for 26 for 242 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

Los Alamitos 0 20 0 9 29
Santa Margarita 6 0 7 7 20

SM – Clark 22 pass from Tharpe (kick failed)
LA – Kline 32 run (Garnarik kick)
LA – Jones 39 run (kick failed)
LA – Van Gorder 35 pass from Kline (Garnarik kick)
SM – White 1 run (Graben kick)
LA – Jones 54 run (kick failed)
SM – Whithorne 5 pass from Tharpe (Graben kick)
LA – Koromelas 35 FG

Rushing: SM - White 29-171, De Vitis 1-9; LA - Jones 25-192, Kline 12-94
Passing: SM - Tharpe 17-26-1-242; LA - Kline 10-14-1-97
Receiving: SM - Whithorne 7-146, Clark 4-54; LA - Jones 6-56, Tripp 3-12


By Steve Fryer
Saturday, November 24, 2001
The Orange County Register