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Battered Santa Margarita pulls out victory
COSTA MESA - Adversity isn't a stranger to the Santa Margarita football team, and Friday night Coach Harry Welch and company faced it again.
The Eagles, who are already without quarterback Johnny Stanton, went into their Trinity League contest against Orange Lutheran without several more starters out because of injury, including running back Ryan Wolpin.
However, behind quarterback Kyle Sweet, the fifth-ranked visiting Eagles (7-1, 2-1) defeated seventh-ranked Orange Lutheran, 17-14, at Orange Coast College.
"We had a lot trust in each other, and the whole attitude all week was to work as hard as you can and trust each other," Sweet said. "We all had each other's back, and we pulled it off."
Alex Ury's 19-yard field goal with 37 seconds remaining gave Santa Margarita the 17-14 lead.
Orange Lutheran's next possession started from its 32. Quarterback J.D. Pickell connected on an 11-yard pass to Brady Billups and a 14-yard pass to Andre Borba to move to the Santa Margarita 43.
Two plays later, Santa Margarita's River Cracraft intercepted a Pickell pass with four seconds left to seal the victory.
"This team has a lot of drive," Cracraft said. "A lot of people have said that our team can't do it this year, since we lost Johnny Stanton, we've lost Ryan Wolpin, but we proved it tonight that we can do it."
The game was scoreless at halftime.
Cracraft, who opened the scoring with a 12-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, set up the game-winning field goal with a 54-yard reception.
"I knew he was going to run a good route," Sweet said. "He's my guy, and I gave him the opportunity to catch it and he made a great catch and run."
The Lancers seemed to have the Eagles on the run in the fourth quarter.
Orange Lutheran trailed 14-0 entering the fourth. Tylen Drake scored a 7-yard touchdown and Pickell went in from the 4 with 3:19 to tie the score, before Sweet and the Eagles went to work on the winning drive.
Sweet, who is filling in for the injured Stanton, turned in another solid performance, completing 10 of 12 passes for 134 yards and one touchdown.
"This is the hardest time to grow your wisdom teeth and to do it in the middle of the Trinity League," Welch said of Sweet. "But I thought he ran the ball like Johnny (Stanton) and made some beautiful tosses, converted some first downs, and I thought he handled the offense well."
Duncan Hume, who replaced Wolpin, rushed 69 yards on 15 carries.
The victory moved Santa Margarita into a second-place tie with Mater Dei in the Trinity League.
"I think we definitely matured as a team," Sweet said.