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Santa Ana has perfect ending for breakthrough season
WESTMINSTER – Santa Ana rode bruising running back Jorge Briseño, nearly perfect quarterback Damian Macias, and a strong defensive effort against the run Friday night, and scored on its first four second-half drives to pull away to a 36-21 victory at Westminster, completing a perfect regular season and claiming sole possession of the Golden West League championship.
The Saints (10-0, 5-0), whose record was helped by a forfeit victory over Orange, are expected to be the No. 1 seed when the CIF Southern Section Division 13 playoff pairings are announced Sunday.
Westminster (5-5, 3-2), which would have shared the league title with Santa Ana and Segerstrom with a victory, finishes third and will learn its playoff fate when the Division 11 bracket is announced.
It's Santa Ana's first league title in 27 years. It hadn't beaten the Lions since 2002.
“It's the best season since (Santa Ana reached the CIF 4-A final in) 1967, and I'll probably realize how big it is in January,” said Coach Charlie TeGantvoort, who has reached the playoffs all three seasons after taking over a program that had won once in the previous 40 games. “Right now, I'm excited for the boys and how hard they've worked and how successful they've become, but we're not finished yet.”
Briseño ran for 183 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries, and he essentially clinched the crown with a 53-yard TD scamper that gave Santa Ana a 22-point lead with 5 minutes to go.
Macias completed 10 of 11 passes for 182 yards, including a short toss that Pablo Aguirre turned into a 44-yard TD for a 26-7 lead with 4:11 to play in the third quarter. The only pass that missed was a Hail Mary out of the end zone on the final play of the first half.
Westminster had limited use of All-CIF defensive back/wide receiver Isayah Anderson, who was dealing with an undisclosed injury, and struggled to move the ball effectively.
Running back Josh Avila, who has nearly 1,400 yards, was stopped for no gain or worse on six of 13 carries and limited to 46 yards, his lowest total of the season.
Two fumbles by quarterback Noah Melbon, one while trying to hand the ball off, were costly, ending a potential scoring drive at the end of the first half and giving Santa Ana, which led by 5 at halftime, a short field for its first second-half score.
Melbon threw for 177 yards and a TD and ran for 24 and another score.