Eagles 17 - Mater Dei 7

Santa Margarita takes chances, beats Mater Dei

MISSION VIEJO, CA., November 12, 2010 – Santa Margarita football coach Harry Welch continued to show how much he trusts his team Friday.

The Eagles didn't let him down.

No. 4 Santa Margarita converted two of three startling fourth-down plays en route to defeating No. 3 Mater Dei, 17-7, to secure second place in the Trinity League.

In a game that saw Mater Dei lose wide receiver Victor Blackwell to his second shoulder injury of the season, it was the those fourth-down conversions that helped push Santa Margarita (8-2, 4-1) into the Pac-5 Division playoffs with plenty of momentum.

The Eagles converted a fourth-and-1 from its 39 on their opening drive, which ended in a touchdown.

They failed on a fourth-and-2 from their 32 on the opening possession of the third period, setting up the lone score for the third-place Monarchs (6-4, 3-2).

And the Eagles sealed the victory by converting a fourth-and-1 from their 29 coming out of a timeout with about 3 1/2 minutes remaining.

"I love it," Santa Margarita quarterback Adam Young said of Welch's decisions. "He believes in us. I love it."

Welch said the fourth-down calls are his style but added that his team has earned his trust during its turnaround season.

"I do trust them," said Welch, who inherited a team that went 3-7 overall and 0-5 in the Trinity last season. "I'm willing to risk that if we don't make it, we can still be successful in the ballgame.

"I think the world of them."

Blackwell suffered a dislocated shoulder on the opening series of the game. The USC commit was the intended receiver on a third down play from the Eagles 46. He was hit on the incompletion with 9:01 left and he didn't return.

"We'll have to see," Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson said of Blackwell's status. "You never know about those things."

After the injury, Santa Margarita drove 70 yards for a score on its first possession. Young capped a 13-play drive with a 9-yard touchdown run with 3:14 left in the first quarter. Santa Margarita converted a gutsy fourth-and-1 from its 39 to jump-start the drive.

Santa Margarita finished the second quarter with some big plays to extend its lead.

Defensive back Johnny Stanton intercepted a pass in the end zone with 2:32 left in half. The Eagles quickly drove for a 12-yard touchdown run by Cory Thomson with 1:14 left in the quarter.

The Eagles' defense then produced a stop. Thanks to some good clock management and a 29-yard punt return by Reiley Higgins, the Eagles managed a 39-yard field by Young on the final play of the half to lead 17-0.

Mater Dei defensive back Glen Raphael stopped the Eagles' fourth-and-2 attempt early in third period. Corbian Anderson broke a 23-yard run on the next play and scored a few plays later on 2-yard run as Mater Dei cut the lead to 17-7 with 8:25 left.

The defenses controlled the game the rest of the way, though Mater Dei missed a 23-yard field goal with 3:58 left in the fourth.

Mater Dei junior Richard Ortiz finished with two sacks. Fellow linebacker Joseph Schmidt also had a strong second half.

Stanton, a sophomore, had a tackle for a loss in addition to his interception and played some quarterback.

Santa Margarita outgained Mater Dei, 271-234.

But when it was all over, it was hard to miss Welch's smile. The Eagles are headed to playoffs as the second place team from Trinity League. He added that, "no one is going to look past the Eagles."

By Dan Albano
Friday, November 13, 2010
The Orange County Register