Center Brett Neilon and Santa Margarita defeated Mission League champion Serra of Gardena, 27-14, Friday in the first round of the Division 1 playoffs despite playing with a limited Grant Calcaterra (knee).

Magyar, defense propel Santa Margarita to win over Serra


GARDENA – The first sign of adversity for Santa Margarita surfaced in warmups with Oklahoma commit receiver/tight end Grant Calcaterra running gingerly.

Then Mission League champion Serra of Gardena, with its USC pipeline and seven-game winning streak, ran onto its home field Friday.

But running back Chad Magyar, his physical offensive line and the Eagles’ aggressive defense didn’t blink.

Magyar rushed for 122 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries and the Eagles forced Serra to turn the ball over on downs three times in Santa Margarita’s 27-14 victory in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 1 playoffs.

The Eagles (7-4) won in first-year coach Rich Fisher’s postseason debut and collected their first playoff victory since 2012.

"They say the games you remember are played in November," Fisher said. "That was our goal. We wanted to get here and we fully expected to come here and get a victory." 

The Eagles did it with a limited Calcaterra, who sprained his knee earlier in the week and finished with one catch.

“It was a tough trip,” said Santa Margarita center Brett Neilon, a USC commit. “I honestly think we have the best coaching staff in America. They get us prepared. … We’ve come a very long way since that Mission game.”

The Eagles dropped their season opener against Mission Viejo, 48-21, but will ride a three-game winning streak into the second round against St. John Bosco, which beat Upland, 47-10.

Neilon combined with fellow offensive linemen Thomas Parker, Matthew Roy, Chris Gonzalez and Chad Matthews to spring holes for Magyar and Malone Mataele (67 yards rushing) against Serra (7-4). Magyar also had six receptions for 92 yards.

"I'm really proud of the offensive line, the way they stepped up and played," Fisher said. "We're banged up a little bit. ... But overall, first year in the program, for us to get to the playoffs and get a playoff win, we're super excited."

Santa Margarita’s defense held on a fourth-and-goal from its 3 on the opening possession of the third quarter as linebacker Jadon Digravio deflected a pass to preserve a 20-7 lead.

Santa Margarita's Joseph Canty also broke up a pass on fourth down on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Eagles took over at the Serra 45 and drove for a 10-yard TD run by Magyar to open a 27-7 lead with 8:25 left.

Magyar scored twice in the final four minutes of the first half to help Santa Margarita lead, 20-7, at halftime against the ninth-ranked team in the state, according to Cal-Hi Sports.

The junior capped a swift, two-play 85-yard drive with a 3-yard TD run with 1:48 left in the second quarter as the Eagles opened a 20-7 lead. An 82-yard connection between Richard Wagner to Munir McClain set up the score. Wagner’s deep pass found McClain in stride and the sophomore stretched for a slick catch.

Magyar also punctuated an 83-yard drive with an 11-yard TD run with four minutes left in the second quarter. Santa Margarita led, 13-7.

Mataele sparked the drive by breaking a 49-yard run to the Serra 22 on the third play.

Santa Margarita made a key defensive stand before the possession. After Serra recovered a fumble forced by Merlin Robertson at the Eagles’ 42 early in the second quarter, the Eagles held twice. Santa Margarita appeared to have an interception from Mase Funa but received a personal foul on the play.

The Eagles’ defense also helped set up Santa Margarita’s first TD. They forced Serra to turn the ball over on downs on its first possession at the Eagles 40. Five plays later, Mataele scored on a 17-yard TD reception from Wagner for an early 7-0 lead.

Serra has sent about 23 players to USC over the years. Former Mater Dei player John Jackson had six catches for 72 yards at wide receiver, including a 14-yard TD.

RELATED: Trinity League Football Podcast - playoff preview

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