Santa Margarita junior Chad Magyar has been a key player in the Eagles' recent success. He helped the Eagles win their first-round playoff game against Serra of Gardena, 27-17. (Photo by Nick Agro, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Fryer on football: Santa Margarita surging since it got a confidence boost


Santa Margarita got better in a 37-point loss.

That’s how Santa Margarita coach Rich Fisher saw it Monday when he was asked to explain how the Eagles improved so much this season that they were able to beat the team ranked No. 9 in the state, Serra of Gardena, in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section playoffs.

“The turning point actually came in the first half of the Bosco game,” said Fisher, recalling Santa Margarita’s 47-10 loss to St. John Bosco on Oct. 14. “We were losing by only 13-3 at halftime. We played a really good first half.”

That brought to the team a we-can-play-with-anybody confidence. If the Eagles could play as well over four quarters as they did in those first two quarters against state No. 3 Bosco, the team realized, they could compete with anybody.

Santa Margarita has won three in a row. The Eagles beat Orange Lutheran and Servite in back-to-back Trinity League games to conclude the regular season. Then they beat Serra, 27-14, on Friday in a Division 1 first-round game at Serra.

“As much as anything,” said Fisher, in his first season coaching Santa Margarita, “it was the kids buying into our offensive and defensive schemes and understanding their responsibilities in those schemes.”

Santa Margarita gets another chance to show that improvement, and against a familiar opponent. The Eagles play St. John Bosco on Friday in a second-round game at Saddleback College.


• Mater Dei sophomore quarterback JT Daniels this season set the Orange County single-season record for touchdown passes, with 58, surpassing the mark of 52 set by Nick Brown of Rancho Alamitos in 2014. For the season, Daniels has 3,865 passing yards. The county single-season passing yardage record is 4,219, set by El Toro’s Conner Manning in 2011.

• Daniels has 6,907 career passing yards. The county’s career passing yardage record is 9,471, set by Mater Dei’s Matt Barkley, 2005-08.

• Daniels has not played much in the second half of games this season, given there have been so many one-sided wins for Mater Dei. Of Daniels’ 3,865 passing yards this season, 3,262, or 84 percent, have come in the first half.

• Mater Dei scored touchdowns on nine of its 10 possessions in the 69-0 win over Tesoro in a Division 1 first-round game Friday.

• Laguna Beach beat Montview League champion Duarte, 26-21, in a Division 13 first-round game Friday. Breakers coach John Shanahan reported no individual standouts in the school’s first football playoff appearance in four years because, he said, “when we win it’s always a total team effort.”

• Shanahan did say that Laguna Beach junior quarterback Curtis Harrison was his usual gritty self and the coach was most proud of the play of the undersized offensive and defensive lines that include two-way starters Zach Fields (6-foot, 225 pounds) and Henry Syvertsen (5-11, 180). “Those guys grind and battle every night,” Shanahan said.

• Two leagues with O.C. teams in them have three teams playing in the second round. The Pacific Coast League’s Beckman, Corona del Mar and Woodbridge advanced to the second round. The Trinity League’s Mater Dei, St. John Bosco and Santa Margarita are in the second round.

• The Sunset League had three teams enter the playoffs, Edison, Los Alamitos and Huntington Beach. Edison and Los Alamitos advanced to the second round.

• Three teams in the’s California top 25 lost first-round games: No. 9 Serra of Gardena; No. 14 Oaks Christian of Westlake Village, to La Habra; and No. 21 Bishop Amat, to Vista Murrieta.

• The Buena Park-Edison game, a Division 3 second-round game, is at Huntington Beach High on Friday at 7 p.m. That game was scheduled for Orange Coast College, but Huntington Beach High made some accommodations so Edison could use Cap Sheue Field at HBHS.

• The only other O.C. vs. O.C. second-round matchup is Yorba Linda at Garden Grove (Division 8)

• Mission Viejo-Rancho Cucamonga matches teams ranked high by It has Mission Viejo at No. 4 in the state. Rancho Cucamonga is No. 5.

• It’s official: Edison, through its athletic director Rich Boyce, has begun accepting applications for its football head coaching position. Dave White has announced that this season is his final season coaching the Chargers. White is in his 31st season as his alma mater’s head coach.

• White has said that if it was up to him, he would like his replacement to be somebody with Edison ties. The school administration has not yet asked White for recommendations. Canyon coach Mike Ogas and Santa Margarita assistant coach Jeff Grady played for White at Edison.

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