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BILL ALKOFER , STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Santa Margarita quarterback Richard Wagner netted 34 yards on this scamper during the first half of his game against JSerra on Friday.

Santa Margarita's Wagner steps up against JSerra

STAFF WRITER

MISSION VIEJO – No KJ. But that’s OK.

Santa Margarita quarterback KJ Costello, a Trinity League offensive player of the year last season and a Stanford commit, did not play against JSerra on Friday because of an injured ankle.

Richard Wagner started in his place and threw three touchdown passes as Santa Margarita beat JSerra, 28-21, in a Trinity League game at Saddleback College.

POSTGAME TALK: How no-KJ Santa Margarita did OK against JSerra

Santa Margarita needed this one. The Eagles were clobbered by St. John Bosco last week, 62-14. Friday’s win makes Santa Margarita 1-1 in the Trinity League with three league games remaining against, in order, Orange Lutheran (at Orange Coast College next Friday), Servite and Mater Dei.

JSerra is 0-2 in league. The Lions, who made their playoffs debut last year, play St. John Bosco at Cerritos College next Friday before playing Mater Dei and Orange Lutheran.

It was another painfully close league loss for JSerra. The Lions (5-2 overall) lost to Servite by one point last week.

Wagner, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound junior, completed 12 of 20 passes for 180 yards.

“I love him so much,” Santa Margarita linebacker Tanner Matthews said. “Thank God we had a backup in the making for KJ.”

Santa Margarita (5-2) is ranked No. 4 in Orange County. JSerra, also 5-2, is No. 7 in the county.

Wagner threw the winning touchdown to Grant Calcaterra with 5:33 left in the game, hitting Calcaterra on a crossing route over the middle with Calcaterra then turning upfield and running unchallenged to the end zone. It was Calcaterra’s second TD of the game, the other one covering 66 yards in the first quarter.

Santa Margarita’s Darian Fernandez made an interception on JSerra’s ensuing possession. JSerra got the ball back at its 25-yard line with 1:01 to go but advanced only to its 32.

Defensive end Alec Stewart led the Eagles defense with 11 solo tackles. Stewart and linebacker Tanner Matthews invaded the JSerra backfield regularly.

Santa Margarita had a 21-14 lead at halftime. JSerra tied it on Connor O’Brien’s 38-yard interception return in the third quarter. The teams traded punts until the Wagner-to-Calcaterra touchdown pass.

Being 0-2 in the Trinity League is a significant hole, considering the league’s level of competition. Four of the league’s six teams are in the state top 25 compiled by CalHiSports.com; all six league teams have been in the state top 25 this season.

“We needed this one big time,” Santa Margarita coach Rick Curtis said. “Our defense played great in the second half. Richard stepped up and made that great throw to Grant and our defense held from there.”

Costello, recognized as one of the top quarterback prospects in the nation, injured his right ankle, his plant ankle, last week against St. John Bosco. Curtis is hopeful Costello can play next week.

“We were able to get through this one without him,” Curtis said. “If he can get out there he will be out there.”

Santa Margarita running back/linebacker Matt Mark had a 35-yard touchdown run out of the wildcat formation and had 13 tackles.

Controlling the JSerra run was a Santa Margarita priority. Lions running back Avery Williams, averaging 111 yards a game and 9.4 yards a carry, was limited to 63 yards on 23 carries, including a 1-yard touchdown run, for an average of 2.7 yards a carry.

Contact the writer: sfryer@ocregister.com


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