Calhoun Countdown: The St. Margaret's 'machine' never backs down


This week the Calhoun Countdown spotlight shines on ... St. Margaret’s.

In the preseason OCVarsity breakdown, St. Margaret’s was referred to as a “machine.”

The Tartans are now headed into their two toughest Academy League games, facing opponents, Brethren Christian and Crean Lutheran, that have enjoyed their own success this season and could conceivably slow down their success.

The Warriors are ranked fourth in the latest CIF-SS East Valley Division, undefeated, averaging nearly 50 points a game and the Saints are ranked eighth in the division.

The Tartans (6-1, 1-0) will be ready.

“We have a focused group,” St. Margaret’s coach Stephen Barbee said.  “Every week we have to bring that consistency."

Even when the Tartans weren’t at their best, they still nearly pulled off the victory.

Two weeks ago, the Tartans hit the road for a trip to Napa to take on Justin-Siena, the defending North Coast Section champion. The Tartans turned the ball over seven times, missed a field and an extra point and lost 43-40.

“They were the better team and we didn’t execute when we needed to,” Barbee said. “It was a great game against a CIF champ. … I thought we played well, but we had too many turnovers to come out with the win."

After a tough nonleague schedule that consisted of a San Diego Section champion (The Bishop’s), a North Coast champion (Justin-Siena), a CIF finalist (Arrowhead Christian) and the annual rivalry game against Whittier Christian, Barbee believes the Tartans are prepared to handle what’s ahead for the remainder of the season.

But first up, the Academy League schedule.

“We couldn’t sit back and pout after we lost,” Barbee said. “We’re still a good team, but we lost to a good team. Our goals don’t change, first up is to try and claim the Academy League (title).

“To play at a high championship level, you want to be tested every week and our kids didn’t shy away from it.”

The Tartans opened league play with a 52-7 victory over Sage Hill, behind quarterback George Krantz’s five touchdown passes.

Krantz has five interceptions this season, with four coming in the game against The Bishop’s.

“I think he’s established himself as one the best quarterbacks in the county,” Barbee said.

Nick Shanks, Sam Harnisch and Austin Locke are just a few of key components to the Tartans’ well-oiled machine this season.

“It has been nice to see the whole team develop,” Barbee said. “It started in the summer with 6 a.m. practices. … They’ve all put the work in and they’ve all had to be there and pick each other up, athletically, academically or personally. They have a great bond.

“The great thing about football is that you can teach on so many levels and this group has been up for the task and it is great to see this team establish an identity.

“We showed perseverance against Bishops, the way we handled Arrowhead (Christian), then the 11-hour, 500-mile trip (to play Justin-Siena). I’m not sure a lot of teams would be able to do that. It speaks volumes of the team and the program. They trust in the process and the way to go about things.”

Here is the rest of the Calhoun Countdown:

The Countdown Showdown of the Week: Mission Viejo at San Juan Hills, Friday. Tesoro tried to unseat the South Coast League King last week, but Brock Johnson and Co. rallied together for a 39-33 victory.

This week, the Diablos take on San Juan Hills and dynamic quarterback Patrick O’Brien. O’Brien has completed 77.5 percent of his passes. He has 17 touchdowns and only one interception.

When you’re talking about quarterbacks, you can’t overlook the job Brock Johnson has done (1,797 yards, 20 touchdowns, six interceptions). This game could be another instant classic like last week’s Mission Viejo-Tesoro game.

Keep an eye on:
Isaiah Miller, Mission Viejo: Miller returned from injury last week and rushed for 114 yard with a pair of touchdowns last week.

Jacob Huff, San Juan Hills: Huff leads the county in receiving yards (921) and is second in receptions (58). He’s had a pair of 200-yard nights.

Making moves in rushing title race: Huntington Beach senior Hunter Simmons has been unstoppable since the start of Sunset League play. He opened with 280 yards against Marina and then went for 319 last week against Newport Harbor.

He begins the week 101 yards behind Jordan Leonard (Brethren Christian). Jacob Fimbres (Sonora) is closing fast on Simmons’ heels. Fimbres is at 1,214 with Garden Grove’s Jordan Antunez in fourth with 1,205.

My vote in this week’s O.C. Top 10 looked like this: 1. Mater Dei; 2. Mission Viejo; 3. Orange Lutheran; 4. Santa Margarita; 5. Servite; 6. San Juan Hills; 7. Tesoro; 8. JSerra; 9. La Habra; 10. San Clemente

The Real American Hero (for Week 7): Richard Wagner, Santa Margarita. Wagner filled in for KJ Costello last week and completed 12 of 20 passes for 180 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Eagles to a 28-21 victory over JSerra.

The player to watch this week: Chase Garbers, Corona del Mar. Garbers is coming off of a spectacular night last week against Beckman. He completed 25 of 29 passes for 315 yards with six touchdowns. Next up for Garbers and the Sea Kings is University in a battle for first place in the Pacific Coast League.

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