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Division 1 bowl game preview: Santa Margarita vs. Bellarmine
CIF STATE FOOTBALL DIVISION I BOWL CHAMPIONSHIP
BELLARMINE OF SAN JOSE (12-1) vs. SANTA MARGARITA (12-2)
Site, time: The Home Depot Center, Friday, 8 p.m.
How they got to the finals
Bellarmine of San Jose, West Catholic League champion, def. Palo Alto, 41-13, in the CIF-Central Coast Section Open championship, def. Terra Nova of Pacifica, 56-12, in first round, def. Archbishop Mitty of San Jose, 29-0, in second round.
Santa Margarita, Trinity League runner-up, defeated San Clemente, 27-13, in CIF-Southern Section Pac-5 Division championship, def. Bishop Amat, 45-21, in first round, def. Long Beach Poly, 49-16, in second round, def. Mission Viejo, 21-20, in semifinals.
As section champions, Bellarmine and Santa Margarita were selected by state section commissioners for the Division 1 bowl game.
Outlook: Bellarmine has won 12 consecutive games after losing in double-overtime to De La Salle of Concord, 26-23, in a season-opening game for both teams. CIF State Open Bowl finalist De La Salle led, 14-7, going into the fourth quarter, but Bellarmine scored a touchdown to force overtime. Bellarmine rushed for 237 yards on 55 carries against De La Salle and outgained the Spartans, 294-212.
The Bells run the double-wing offense, a ground-oriented attack run best in Orange County by Tustin. Bellarmine and Santa Margarita both have strong, running quarterbacks. Bells quarterback Travis McHugh racked up 209 rushing yards in a 41-13 victory against nemesis Palo Alto in the Central Coast open finals on Dec. 2. Last season, Palo Alto defeated Bellarmine, 35-0, in the second round of the playoffs. McHugh has 1,373 rushing yards for the season.
Santa Margarita QB Johnny Stanton has rushed for 1,452 yards. Bellarmine’s defense has been solid. The most points the Bells have allowed is 23 against De La Salle and St. Francis of Mountain View.
Bellarmine reached the CIF State Division 1 bowl in 2009, losing to Oceanside, 24-19. Santa Margarita has won seven of its past eight games with the only loss during that stretch a 43-42 decision to Servite in overtime.
The Eagles are making their first appearance in a state bowl game, but Santa Margarita coach Harry Welch has won state bowl championship games with Canyon of Canyon Country and St. Margaret’s.
The game also ends the 40-year coaching career of Marty Spalding, Santa Margarita's offensive line coach, who is retiring after being on the staffs of nine teams that won CIF championships.
QB Travis McHugh 175 car., 1,373 yards, 21 TDs; 57 for 92 passing, 847 yards, 11 TDs, 3 INTs
RB Tim Crawley 185 car., 1428 yards, 17 TDs
RB Justin Taliaferro 75 car., 570 yards, 6 TDs
QB Johnny Stanton 240 car., 1,451 yards, 23 TDs; 149 for 244 passing, 9 TDs, 9 INTs
RB Ryan Wolpin 242 car., 1,630 yards, 27 TDs
WR Sean Modster 41 rec., 621 yards, 2 TDs
WR River Cracraft 35 rec., 469 yards, 3 TDs
LB Matt Andersen 112 total tackles, 2 sacks
DE Chris Frost 91 total tackles, 12 sacks, 4 forced fumbles
Harold Abend is a Bay Area-based special assignments correspondent for ESPN HS/Cal-Hi Sports. He knows Bellarmine along with the state high school scene. Here’s his analysis of the matchup.
What Bellarmine must do to win: “They’re going to want to pound the ball. They rush for almost 350 yards a game. They’re only going to pass when they have to. They can pass if they have to, but they’re going to want to pound that ball, so it’s going to be a battle up front.”
What Santa Margarita must do to win: “Stop the run, and they’ve got the guys up front who can do it. Bellarmine has not faced a team with this much size. But when you’ve got a quarterback who is 6-foot-3, around 215 pounds (McHugh), that’s a load to bring down. This kid is going to be pounding the ball, plus they have other running backs.”
Prediction: “If Bellarmine can almost knock off De La Salle, I’ve got to think that they’re going to win a close game. So I’ll say 35-31 (Bellarmine).”
10 Travis McHugh QB
30 Tim Crawley RB
34 Justin Taliaferro RB
4 Conner Jauch RB
85 Joe Gigantino TE
82 Alex Manigo WR
52 Dominic Luca LT
51 Brad Kuh LG
61 Jacob Boissiere C
55 Liam Lambert RG
72 Casey Wahl RT
10 Travis McHugh PK
52 Dominic Luca DL
57 Epie Sona DT
72 Casey Wahl DT
82 Alex Manigo LB
25 Joey Sanfillipo LB
51 Brad Kuh LB
85 Joe Gigantino LB
45 Jake Whipple LB
4 Conner Jauch CB
30 Tim Crawley FS
11 Greg Kenter CB
10 Travis McHugh P
4 Johnny Stanton QB
5 Ryan Wolpin RB
17 Kyle Sweet WR
8 River Cracraft WR
27 Sean Modster WR
6 Corey Mendoza WR
77 Max Tuerk LT
64 Cole Luther LG
55 Dane Crane C
73 Erik Bunte RG
75 Riley Sorenson RT
13 John McGrory PK
80 Sean Donegan DE
32 Ian Dewert NG
62 Mack Pierson DT
54 Chris Frost DE
35 Matt Andersen LB
41 Sammy Gibbs LB
45 Zach Bonte LB
3 Gian Carlo Spinosi CB
7 Connor O’Brien FS
25 RJ Mazolewski SS
9 Konner Kafentzis CB
13 John McGrory P