Orange Lutheran running back Dominik Austin, left, makes good use of a stiff-arm against JSerra's Victor Clanton.

Fryer on football: A razor-thin margin of error


COSTA MESA – It was a must-win game.

How much of a must-win game?

It was a Trinity League game, JSerra vs. Orange Lutheran, so of course it was a must-win of major proportions. That league is so tough that every win is precious. The importance of a 1-0 start over a 0-1 start cannot be overstated.

The 1-0/0-1 start came down to one play Friday.

JSerra-Orange Lutheran at Orange Coast College went into overtime. Orange Lutheran scored first for a 30-23 lead. JSerra answered with a touchdown on a short run by quarterback Matt Robinson. The Lions went for two points and the win – the correct call, yes – and Robinson rolled right, fired to Riley O’Brien at the goal line but Orange Lutheran ace defensive back Brandon McKinney broke it up to secure the Lutheran victory and give the Lancers the 1-0 start.

Either Mater Dei or St. John Bosco is going to go 5-0 in the Trinity League. And if its Mater Dei that finishes 5-0, then it will be St. John Bosco that goes 4-1, or vice versa.

Proof of that came with these two scores Friday: St. John Bosco 70, Servite 6; and Mater Dei 62, Santa Margarita 14. Keep in mind that Servite and Santa Margarita are in the California top 25 so, yeah, Bosco and Mater Dei are pretty good.

That leaves the Trinity’s other four teams – JSerra, Orange Lutheran, Santa Margarita and Servite – to battle it out for the league’s third and final guaranteed playoff berth.

The CIF-Southern Section has a new structure for the playoffs. Last season as in previous seasons, all of a league’s playoff teams played in the same playoff division. Now, teams are placed in divisions according to their points profiles based on past performance. The better a team has done in recent years, the higher the division it is in.

Some leagues have their teams scattered across divisions. The Sea View League’s five teams are in five divisions. All six Trinity League teams, though, are in CIF-SS Division 1, which has 18 teams in it playing to get into the division’s 16-team playoff bracket.

Here is how Orange Lutheran coach Chuck Petersen sees it …

“We have 18 teams playing for 16 spots,” Petersen said, “and once you get your automatic entries in then, realistically, I think it comes down to five teams going for the final three spots.”

And one play Friday might have decided whether Orange Lutheran or JSerra gets one of those three spots.

Elsewhere under the lights …

• Seven Orange County teams were undefeated going into this week. Santa Ana and University lost, so now O.C. has five undefeated teams: Katella; Mater Dei; Mission Viejo; Orange and Segerstrom.

• Of those five, two seem most-likely to finish the regular season 10-0: Katella and Mission Viejo. Mater Dei has to play St. John Bosco and Orange-Segerstrom seems like a toss-up, so Katella and Mission Viejo have the better chances to avoid a regular-season loss.

• Orange is 6-0 after Thursday’s 31-29 win over Santa Ana. That’s a heck of a start for the Panthers, but there have been better starts in the school’s football history. Orange’s 1966 team started 7-0 en route to an 8-2 finish and the Crestview League championship, and that comes to us from ’66 Orange coach Vince Deveney.

• Segerstrom beat Westminster to yet another fine matchup in the Golden West League. The Jaguars, 6-0 overall and 1-0 in league, play Orange, also 6-0 and 1-0, on Friday at El Modena High.

• Among the more interesting tweets from a game at halftime was this one when Mater Dei had a 56-0 halftime lead over Santa Margarita: “Crazy stat of the half: Santa Margarita possessed the ball for 16:03 in 1st half. Mater Dei had it for only 7:57 and is up 56.”

• The Century Conference’s Crestview and North Hills leagues still have another week of nonleague games coming before they play league games. They are four-team leagues, so each team has only three league games.

• Even when El Toro was 1-5 at the end of nonleague play the Chargers seemed good enough to contend for the Sea View League championship. On Friday, the Chargers hammered Aliso Niguel, 63-28, in a Sea View opener and the team considered to be their top competition in the Sea View, Capistrano Valley, rolled to a 40-3 league win over Laguna Hills. It’s El Toro at Capistrano Valley next Friday.

• Tustin running back Kenneth Carr is 5-11 and 165 pounds and through Thursday was Orange County’s leading rusher with 1,494 yards in six games. Tustin coach Myron Miller, who has coached many a county leading rusher, is equally impressed and perplexed. Miller said, “I’ve never had a 165-pound running back before.”

• One of the week’s highlights was the greeting Cypress receiver/defensive back Cameron Covington got when he returned to the Western High stadium in the second half of the Centurions’ game against Tustin after being taken away by ambulance in the first half. Covington’s head was struck by a knee of a Tustin player and afterward he could not recall his name when asked for it by trainers, so Covington was sent to a hospital to get check out. He was diagnosed with a concussion.

Corona del Mar quarterback Chase Garbers is going to Cal where he will be better than Jared Goff was there. Garbers has the tools. He is 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, strong and accurate arm, excellent vision and he has a superb feel for the game.

• Illegal blocking below the waist was a point of emphasis on a recent communiqué that was distributed to Orange County football officials and the officials, more cognizant than ever about player safety, must have read it. In the Tustin-Cypress game Thursday, two chop-block penalties curtailed big gains. At JSerra-Orange Lutheran, a gain of close to 50 yards by Orange Lutheran’s Dominik Austin was erased by a chop block.

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Westminster 21, Orange 14 - 01:00 2nd QT - Completed


Mater Dei 26, St. John Bosco 21 - 07:00 4th QT - Completed


Troy 15, Fullerton 14 - 00:00 4th QT - Completed


Servite 42, Orange Lutheran 49 - 00:00 4th QT - Completed


Laguna Hills 41, Templeton 28 - 02:23 4th QT - Completed


Aliso Niguel 10, Capistrano Valley 43 - 00:00 4th QT - Completed


Trabuco Hills 0, Mission Viejo 68 - 07:28 4th QT - Completed


Yorba Linda 27, Foothill 9 - 00:00 4th QT - Completed


Los Alamitos 62, Fountain Valley 7 - 02:06 2nd QT - Completed


El Dorado 20, El Modena 34 - 00:00 4th QT - Completed