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Eagles' Stanton not taking a knee on season
RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA – There was a new operator behind the light-blue passing machine that fired footballs at Santa Margarita receivers after practice Tuesday.
Instead of an assistant coach at the controls it was Johnny Stanton, the Eagles' injured quarterback known for his ability to spin pinpoint passes.
Stanton's newly acquired crutches were nearby as he placed footballs into the device and barked "Go!" to teammates running routes.
The senior is used to directing Santa Margarita's football engine on the field, but he has quickly found new ways to contribute. He also is helping to coach the quarterbacks, including his potential replacement, Josh Canty.
"I want to be as involved as I can," Stanton said. "We haven't lost any hope in the season. We still think that we can win the Trinity League. We still think we can win the CIF championship."
For the past five weeks, Stanton led top-ranked Santa Margarita with the bravado that made him arguably Orange County's best-known high school athlete. He was a reigning CIF champion delivering a rousing encore for a team ranked No. 1 in the nation by ESPN.
But the day after helping Santa Margarita improve to 5-0 with a 35-27 victory against St. Bonaventure of Ventura on Friday, he was diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, a torn meniscus and a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee.
And that's not all.
"I had a (mild) concussion during the game, too," Stanton said. "I'm feeling fine now."
Stanton first became concerned about his knee during the Eagles' 72-0 victory against Carson on Sept. 14.
"It was the play that I didn't get out of bounds," he said with a slight laugh. "I was scrambling off to the left and I tried to make a spin move and the guy hit me.
"I still don't know exactly how I hurt my knee (against Carson) because no one went for my knee, and I didn't really feel like I jammed it."
The Nebraska commit played the next week against St. Bonaventure but began limping after taking a hit on a quarterback draw on the Eagles' first series. He also limped in the second half but still added two highlight plays to the impressive vault he built last season.
In the third quarter, the 2011 Pac-5 offensive player of the year leaped over the pile and stretched the ball across the goal line for a go-ahead, 1-yard TD run. In the fourth, he protected a seven-point lead by escaping a near safety and running 12 yards for a first down.
"He's incredible," Eagles coach Harry Welch said of Stanton, who passed for 949 yards and ran for 386 yards this season.
Stanton shared the news of his injury with some of his teammates Saturday and the rest found out Monday at school.
"I was devastated," wide receiver River Cracraft said. "Johnny is a great leader. He leads this team. But he's not the only guy on this team who can lead."
Stanton called Cornhuskers assistant coach Tim Beck and was assured that his scholarship offer stands.
Among those who reached out in support to Stanton was El Toro quarterback Conner Manning, a player who has competed with Stanton this season for the title of best quarterback in the county.
"He messaged me saying that he was very sorry about my injury and that he wishes me a speedy recovery and success at Nebraska," Stanton said. "I was very appreciative of him."
Stanton planned to take an official visit to Lincoln this weekend during Santa Margarita's bye, but because of his injury he is now aiming for Oct. 27.
He could have surgery on his knee Friday.
While Stanton said he initially felt worried about his injury, he has found comfort with a level-headed approach and his faith.
"I was lucky enough to know that it was not my last game," he said. "I know that God put me in this situation for a reason."
Stanton is interested in becoming a doctor, perhaps even an orthopedic surgeon.
"(This is a) little practice," he said with a smile.
JOHNNY STANTON SCHOOL RECORDS
Most yards rushing by a QB in a game (173, SJB 2011)
Most yards rushing by QB in a season (1,528, 2011)
Most yards rushing by a QB in a career (2,137, 2010-12)
Most 100-yard rushing games by a QB in a season (8, 2011)
Most 100-yard rushing games by a QB in a career (8, 2010-12)
Most 100-yard passing games in a season 14 (2011)
Most yards of Total Offense in a season (3,967, 2011)
Most yards of Total Offense in a career (5,900, 2010-12)
Most yards passing by a junior (2,439, 2011)
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