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Santa Margarita beats Servite with familiar attack
MISSION VIEJO - Top-ranked Santa Margarita looked different on offense without quarterback Johnny Stanton.
But some things appeared the same for the Eagles as they opened the Trinity League against No. 9 Servite on Friday.
Santa Margarita's defense and safety Connor O'Brien were just as ferocious, and running back Ryan Wolpin still gained the important yards behind his huge offensive line in the second half.
Both staples helped the Eagles snap a seven-year losing streak to the Friars with a 21-0 victory at Saddleback College.
Santa Margarita (6-0, 1-0) held Servite (2-4, 0-1) to 73 yards offense and three first downs in its first game since losing Stanton to a season-ending knee injury.
Defensive end Nick Begg recorded two sacks while O'Brien delivered a spark late in the third quarter with a big hit.
The Eagles' Gian Carlo Spinosi also blocked a field goal attempt late in the first half that helped Santa Margarita notch its third shutout.
"The defense played very hard," Santa Margarita coach Harry Welch said. "I thought the defense was consistent from beginning to the very, very end. ... They were tough."
O'Brien's hit came on Servite's second possession of the second half. A few plays after O'Brien broke up a first-down pass with a jarring blow, the Friars sailed a snap on a punt from near mid-field.
Santa Margarita's Tony Bone made the recovery and returned the ball to the Friars 17. Four plays later, Wolpin scored on a 1-yard touchdown run to give the Eagles a 14-0 lead with 1:01 left in the third.
"It's like a real significant slam dunk in basketball," Welch said of O'Brien's hit. "One side gets excited. ... and it's pretty difficult for the other team to say, 'Alright, let's go,' after someone has a hellacious hit put on them."
Santa Margarita's offense then produced one its best drives in the fourth. The Eagles drove 58 yards in 6:20 for a 2-yard touchdown run by quarterback Kyle Sweet for the final margin.
Sweet, a sophomore, started the second half in place of starter Josh Canty.
Sweet ran for 52 yards in the second half and also completed 6 of 7 passes for 36 yards. Canty was 5 for 8 in the first half for 30 yards and two interceptions.
The dual-threat Stanton averaged almost 190 yards passing, but Welch was pleased with how his team fared without the Nebraska commit.
"The offense is going to get a whole lot better," Welch said. "Try two new quarterbacks after Johnny Stanton has been the man for 20 consecutive games. To just throw someone in there in the middle of the season is very, very difficult. ... They were thrown into the fire."
Servite's defense forced three turnovers in the first half, including two in the first 6:21 of the first quarter, but couldn't convert any into points.
The Friars also held Wolpin to 64 yards, well below his average of 145.
"I think they're a great football team even without (Stanton)," Servite coach Troy Thomas said. "I think that Johnny Stanton is all of a man, and they're going to miss him for sure, but I think they have a good offensive line, good receivers, good defense."
Santa Margarita led, 7-0, at halftime on a 1-yard touchdown dive by Wolpin with 3:33 left in the second quarter. The senior scored capped a five-minute, 56-yard drive.
Servite missed field goals of 47 and 25 yards in the first half.
The Friars attempted the 47-yard field goal after a drive starting from the Eagles' 34 stalled with 2:34 left in the first period. An interception by sophomore Eli Asiata on Santa Margarita's third play setup the field position.
Servite attempted the 25-yard attempt just before half on a 46-yard completion from quarterback Travis Waller to wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown to the Eagles' 8 with seven seconds left.
The 46-yard pass was the longest play by either team, and represented more than 60 percent of Servite's yards output.
"We couldn't get anything going offensively," Thomas said. "We had opportunities to score and we just didn't capitalize."
Thomas said Waller, 6-foot-4 sophomore, is the Friars starting quarterback. BYU commit Neil Pauu (knee, ankle), a 6-foot-4 junior QB, hasn't practiced since being injured against Bishop Gorman of Nevada. "I think he's going to be a good football player," Thomas said of Waller.