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By Zach Cavanagh

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO – St. Margaret’s first game of the 2021 fall football season was self-admittedly ugly.

The Tartans’ offense struggled throughout the night to maintain drives, missed two field goals, turned the ball over and was disorganized at some points. Yet it was the offense that had given St. Margaret’s the lead to open the fourth quarter.

However, as the St. Margaret’s offense took the lead, the Tartans gave Christian of El Cajon the game back with a bad punt snap that led to the go-ahead score and an interception that nearly killed the rest of the game clock.

St. Margaret’s defense had a strong outing, but Christian quarterback Jake Davila scored three combined touchdowns, one passing and two rushing, to put the Patriots over the Tartans, 20-16, on Friday at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School.

“First game out, we had a chance to put them away, and just didn’t capitalize,” St. Margaret’s coach Kory Minor said. “Bad snap on a punt, dropped some balls, missed some tackles. It was definitely our first game, and definitely their second game, for sure. But I think we’ll stay together. We’ll fight through it and turn this thing around.”

St. Margaret’s (0-1) next plays on the road at La Mirada on Friday, Sept. 3.

St. Margaret’s defensive end Trey Kingsley blocks a pass. Photo: Zach Cavanagh

While Christian (2-0) had the better offensive success, neither the Patriots or Tartans were overly efficient.

Christian was 1 for 13 on third-down attempts in the game, and St. Margaret’s was 2 for 13 on third-down attempts. The Tartans front line was in the Christian backfield all night to collect two sacks and six tackles-for-loss.

However, Christian was 2 for 2 on fourth-down attempts, including the game’s opening touchdown on a 32-yard scoring pass from Davila on a 4th-and-11. Christian also converted a fourth down on a St. Margaret’s penalty. The Tartans were 0 for 2 on fourth down, including the bad punt snap that set Christian up in the fourth quarter. St. Margaret’s also missed a field goal and had another one blocked.

In the third quarter, Christian’s offense finally found a rhythm by sticking to its ground game and keeping the ball in Davila’s hands. Davila ran in a 4-yard score for the lead, 13-9.

It was only then the Tartans offense sprung to life as quarterback Jack Ruff found his passing lanes on rollout attempts. Ruff completed passes of 16, 18 and 24 yards before hitting Will Stahl in the back left corner of the end zone on a 20-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter.

St. Margaret’s took the lead, 16-13, and the Christian offense began to fall apart with overthrows and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. The Tartans got the ball back after a 3-and-out, but that’s where the magic stopped.

St. Margaret’s next drive was a 3-and-out of its own, and a low punt snap spelled disaster. The Tartans punter held on to the ball, ran out of the end zone and was stopped at the four-yard line.

Two plays later, Davila ran in a 2-yard touchdown for the lead, 20-16.

St. Margaret’s and Christian each went 3-and-out again to give the Tartans the ball with over five minutes left on the clock. St. Margaret’s gave the ball right back, however, with an interception on their first play of the drive, and Christian cut four minutes off the clock.

St. Margaret’s Student Section “The Kitchen.” Photo: Zach Cavanagh

The Tartans’ final drive started from their own nine-yard line with just over a minute left to play, and the passing offense couldn’t connect. St. Margaret’s got one untimed down with zeroes on the clock after a roughing the passer penalty, but the Tartans couldn’t get one last desperate passing attempt off.

Christian sealed the win, 20-16.

Until the fourth quarter, the Tartans only points came from special teams and the defense.

At the end of the first quarter, Derek Smith found a lane on a punt return and sprinted down the St. Margaret’s sideline on a 90-yard touchdown return. In the second quarter, St. Margaret’s forced Christian back into its own end zone, and an intentional grounding penalty on the Patriots gave the Tartans a safety and a 9-7 lead they held into halftime.

Local Area Football Week 1 Scores:

JSerra (1-1) 20, Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks 0

Cypress 29, San Juan Hills (0-2) 27 (OT)

Dana Hills (1-0) 35, Laguna Beach 7

Calvary Chapel 41, Capistrano Valley Christian (1-1) 28 (Thurs.)

San Clemente (1-0) at San Jacinto (Sat.)

Zach Cavanagh

Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is a multiple California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports. Email at zcavanagh@picketfencemedia.com.

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