Go to the OCVarsity Hot Shots slide show to see more photos from this game.
|Santa Margarita soars into playoffs|
Postgame interview with Santa Margarita football coach Harry Welch after the Eagles' 28-20 victory against St. John Bosco in the Trinity League on Nov. 4, 2011. Video by Dan Albano, OCVarsity.com
|Tough Knocks - Santa Margarita: Family feud|
Episode 10 - Santa Margarita faces JSerra, whose coach, Jim Hartigan, started the football program at Santa Margarita years ago. Video by Rod Veal, OCVarsity.com
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Santa Margarita stays strong under pressure
MISSION VIEJO - Santa Margarita walked off the soggy field at Saddleback College on Friday night knowing it did everything possible to qualify for the Pac-5 Division playoffs.
The No. 3 Eagles racked up 499 yards of offense and made two key defensive stops in the second half en route to a 28-20 victory against St. John Bosco of Bellflower in a Trinity League showdown.
The victory improved Santa Margarita to 8-1 overall and 3-1 in league. About 40 minutes after the game, the Eagles officially became a playoff team with Servite's 35-28 victory against Mater Dei.
Santa Margarita will play for a share of the Trinity League title next week when it takes on the top-ranked Friars, but it had to have Friday's victory first.
"We needed this one," Santa Margarita coach Harry Welch said. "We couldn't do more than we did tonight. We played an oustanding team."
Quarterback Johnny Stanton rushed for 173 yards and two touchdowns to pace Santa Margarita's offense. The junior also passed for 153 yards.
Running back Ryan Wolpin, also a junior, added 142 yards rushing, including a 28-yard touchdown run with 6:33 left in the fourth quarter as the Eagles took a 28-20 lead. Wolpin powered into the end zone dragging two defenders.
Santa Margarita sealed the victory with just under two minutes left on an interception by defensive back Connor O'Brien at his 49-yard line. O'Brien returned his team-leading fifth interception to the Braves 25 and helped Santa Margarita improve to 10-5 all-time against St. John Bosco (6-3, 2-2).
The Braves can qualify for the playoff with a victory next week when they play host to Orange Lutheran (6-3, 1-3).
The Eagles, who never trailed, rushed for 346 yards behind its massive offensive line of Erik Bunte, Riley Sorenson, Max Tuerk, Cole Luther and Dane Crane.
Santa Margarita's defense made arguably its biggest stop early in the fourth period. Santa Margarita led, 21-20, when St. John Bosco recovered a fumble at the Eagles 33. But Santa Margarita's defense held, and coupled with a penalty against the Braves, forced a punt.
On the Braves next possession, the Eagles' defense protected a 28-20 lead thanks in part of a sack by Max Tuerk and tackle for loss by Matt Anderson on consecutive plays.
"I thought our defense was really, really nails," Welch said. "My gut feeling was that we did one of the better jobs against their incredible offense that anyone has done this year."
The Braves finished with only 75 yards passing. Cal commit Bryce Treggs was limited to three catches for 39 yards.
"They just made more (plays) than us," St. John Bosco coach Jason Negro said.
St. John Bosco got a spark in the third quarter from running back Royce Moore, who replaced an injured DaVonte Young (hamstring). Moore scored on runs of 4 and 67 yards.
Stanton answered Moore's first touchdown of the third quarter with a 43-yard touchdown run on a quarterback draw.
But Moore responded with his 67-yard touchdown run with 57 seconds left in the third quarter as the Braves cut the Eagles lead to 21-20.
"If this were a CIF championship or a semifinal, this would have been a worthy match," Welch said. "What an exciting game."
The Eagles scored on the opening possession of the game. Stanton capped a 61-yard drive by scoring on a 10-yard quarterback draw.
Stanton's rushing total set a single-game record for a Santa Margarita quarterback.
Santa Margarita almost took a two-touchdown lead about five minutes into the second quarter. After Turek recovered a fumble at the Santa Margarita 7 to end a promising St. John Bosco drive, the Eagles appeared to score on a 17-yard run by Wolpin. But the score was nullified by a holding penalty.
On the next play, Treggs picked off Stanton and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown. Defensive lineman Chris Frost blocked the extra point and the Braves were forced to play catch up all game.
On Santa Margarita's ensuing possession, Alex Suchesk scored on a 31-yard run with 4:28 left in the half as the Eagles opened a 14-6 lead. It was Suchesk's only carry of the night.