Santa Ana's Allen Pacheco, right, sprints for a touchdown in Thursday's fourth quarter against Marina.

Macias leads Santa Ana to hard-fought win over Marina


WESTMINSTER – Jorge Briseno’s long road back from a knee injury ended in triumph Thursday in the end zone.

As it turned out, Santa Ana’s night of comebacks was only warming up.

Quarterback Damian Macias rallied the Saints from a nine-point deficit late in the third period with a pair of scoring drives and sealed a 33-21 victory against Marina with a 102-yard interception return for a touchdown in the closing seconds at Westminster.

“He’s a kid that does everything right, so it’s so great to see something good happen to someone who truly is Santa Ana,” said Sana Ana coach Charlie TeGantvoort, whose team is ranked No. 1 in Division 13.

“It’s a great victory but it is Week 3. The goal isn't to win Week 3. It's to win them all. We're going to keep fighting until we ge to our goal."

Macias, a junior, grabbed a pass by Marina from the Saints’ 28 about two yards deep in the middle of his end zone. He broke toward his sideline and sprinted for the score with 35 seconds left.

The extra-point by Ismael Mojica made it 33-21.

Macias also broke three key runs on an 88-yard scoring drive, capped by Allen Pacheco’s 8-yard, go-ahead TD run for a 26-21 lead with 1:45 left in the fourth.

Macias earlier tossed an 83-yard TD pass to Chris Nava as the Saints (3-0) trimmed Marina’s lead to 21-19 with 14 seconds left in the third.

Marina (3-1) was trying to start 4-0 for the first time since 2000.

Briseno lifted Santa Ana to a 12-7 lead at halftime with a slick, 65-yard touchdown reception from Macias with 4.7 seconds left in the second quarter.

One play after an interception by Roger Leon, Briseno – usually a running back – lined up at receiver, ran along the Saints’ sideline and caught a high-arching deep pass from Macias in stride and raced into the end zone.

Just as quickly, Briseno was engulfed by congratulations from his teammates.

The senior suffered a season-ending knee injury in fifth game last year and made his debut Thursday.

The Saints’ 2-point conversion failed but Briseno’s touchdown capped their surge late in the first half. Macias recovered a low snap to toss a 30-yard TD on a screen play to running back Tui Levao with 47 seconds left in the half.

Marina’s defense frustrated Santa Ana with a goal-line stand with 6:38 left in the second period. The Saints had first-and-goal at the Marina 2 but the Vikings held on a sack by Blaine Riederich. The senior finished with three sacks.

Marina opened the first quarter with a 65-yard scoring drive capped with a 23-yard TD run by QB Ian Green on fourth-and-3.

The Vikings opened the second half by scoring on their first two possessions to seemingly take control. Green threw a 37-yard TD pass to Noah Holmes and Brandon Savea added a 3-yard TD run as Marina led, 21-12 with about 30 seconds left in the third. Cooper Malerstein set up the Savea's score with a 45-yard run to the Saints' 3.

But Macias and Santa Ana quickly responded with the 83-yard strike to Nava, sparking a wild rally.

"This is about love versus a hobby," TeGantvoort told his players afterward. "We're going to go hard for each other."

Macias emerged as the Saints' QB after an injury to Jonathan Briseno in a scrimmage. Jonathan Briseno didn't play Thursday but could return soon.

"I can't wait until we are full strength and we can really see what this team is made of," TeGantvoort said. 

RELATED: Dan Albano's Trinity League football podcast

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