By Steve Breazeale
One can argue that the success of the San Juan area schools is the storyline of the early season down here in the south Orange County. And who could dispute it?
Heading into tonight’s games, JSerra, San Juan Hills, St. Margaret’s, Capistrano Valley Christian and Saddleback Valley Christian are a combined 14-3. The three losses are attributed to the Saddleback Valley Christian Warriors 0-3 start.
It’s still early, and a lot of the San Juan area preseason victories were against football programs that are still searching for their first win.
But then there are the JSerra victories over Huntington Beach and Buena Park, both signature wins for the Lions, who are a team that is trying to make a name for itself in the Trinity League.
San Juan Hills didn’t win a game last year but are winning games easily in 2012. In their last two games the Stallions outscored Artesia and Marina by a combined score of 66-20.
Capistrano Valley Christian has burst out to a 4-0 start in their return back to 11-man football after playing 8-man for so many years.
Over in Tartan territory, St. Margaret’s is quietly going about its business of winning and maintaining their stance as a dominant program in the East Valley Division (the Tartans are currently ranked fifth in the CIF divisional polls).
Needless to say, it’s a good time to be a football fan in San Juan Capistrano. Here is a breakdown of tonight’s games.
Follow us on Twitter @SouthOCsports and @capodispatch for live, in-game updates from around the leagues. Tonight we will be live tweeting from: San Clemente vs. Newport Harbor, Dana Hills vs. JSerra, St. Margaret’s vs. Laguna Beach and Capistrano Valley Christian vs. Sherman Indian.
Dana Hills vs. JSerra, @ Dana Hills, 7 p.m.
This game is a tale of two teams heading in opposite directions. Dana Hills (0-4) has struggled out of the gate this season while the Lions (3-0) have made headlines after big victories over tough opponents.
The Dolphins lost to Troy last week despite senior running back Marcus Hughes putting together a personal highlight reel, running and catching for 149 total yards of offense. The Warriors running game was too much for the Dolphins and they couldn’t corral Troy’s running back Dallas Parent. The Dolphins have been plagued by injuries and head coach Todd Rusinkovich has had to make some changes in personnel as a result. After another loss it will be interesting to see if Rusinkovich mixes things up yet again to try and stop the red-hot Lions.
JSerra won their last game against Buena Park 15-14 with the help of their strong defensive effort. The Lions needed to be sharp after turning the ball over to Buena Park four times in the contest and they responded with another gritty win.
Junior running back Casey Eugenio has been a dynamo for the Lions and rushed for 136 yards last week. Eugenio is the Lions go-to guy and you can bet the Dolphin defense will be marking him tonight.
St. Margaret’s vs. Laguna Beach, @ Laguna Beach, 7 p.m.
This one is pegged as our game of the week.
The Tartans have ran over all of the opponents they have faced this season and put up a lot of points (103 in three games). Their defense has been just as good, allowing only 21 points to be scored against them.
But now they face a prolific running attack in Laguna Beach head coach Mike Churchill’s Wing-T offense. It’s a style of offense that has multiple backs in the backfield running around, creating misdirection. Throwing isn’t necessarily part of the equation and it’s primarily a running-oriented offense. When ran correctly, it’s an old school thing of beauty.
Breakers (2-0-1) quarterbacks have only attempted 13 passes all season while their running backs have racked up 823 total rushing yards. As of today Laguna Beach is averaging 10.42 yards per carry. Senior running back Drake Martinez is the leading the charge and he’s rushed for 367 yards and seven touchdowns in the early going.
The Tartans front line has had success bringing down quarterbacks and penetrating into the backfield this season and will have to look to do much of the same tonight against Laguna Beach and the Wing-T.
Other area game(s):
San Clemente vs. Newport Harbor @Newport Harbor, 7 p.m.
The trip south to San Diego to play against La Costa Canyon resulted in a win for the Tritons (4-0), who were looking at the match up as a litmus test type of game to see where they stood against solid competition. But the 21-10 victory came at a steep price, as starting senior quarterback Sean Donnelly suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder and had to exit the game. Back up Sam Darnold, a sophomore, replaced Donnelly but immediately hurt his hand, driving him from the game too. That left third stringer Loren Applegate the lone healthy quarterback on the Tritons roster and he filled in and closed the game out.
Donnelly has been diagnosed with a mild strain to his shoulder and will likely be on the sidelines for tonight’s game. Both Donnelly, and head coach Jaime Ortiz, are optimistic about the senior quarterback returning next week against Edison.
“In the beginning we thought it was more…It’s just a strain which is a minimum of a week at the most,” Ortiz said. “It’s going to be a game time decision (against Newport Harbor), I don’t know for sure if he’ll play this week but he should be ready to go next week (against Edison).”
Darnold is listed as day to day and was scheduled to see a specialist Thursday concerning his hand injury, according to Ortiz. Darnold also plays outside linebacker for the Tritons so his absence could be two-fold if he is not cleared to play tonight.
Applegate, a recent transfer to the school, has been getting a lot of reps in at practice this week and could make his first start for the Tritons tonight.
Newport Harbor (1-2) has historically been a ground and pound high school football team and Ortiz expects much of the same tonight. The Sailors will be starting sophomore quarterback Cole Norris tonight which the Tritons might be able to take advantage of but Newport Harbor’s strength appears to be in their talented running backs and wide outs.