No Johnny Stanton, no problem.
Well, maybe a few little problems, but in the first game of the post-Stanton era, Santa Margarita showed that it has something to build on as it tries to win a second consecutive Pac-5 championship.
With quarterback Stanton on the sideline leaning on crutches from knee surgery a week earlier, the new-look Eagles got an old-look result, a 21-0 victory over Servite that gave a good indication the Friars won't be winning an eighth consecutive league title.
The Santa Margarita victory broke a seven-game losing streak to the Friars.
It was a big win for Santa Margarita (6-0, 1-0 in league), which is ranked No. 1 in the nation by ESPN but was being watched closely because of the torn ACL (knee ligament) suffered by Stanton two weeks ago.
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"I don't believe one man makes a team (but) I think Johnny Stanton is all of a man and they're going to miss him, for sure, but they got a good O-line, good receivers, good defense," said Servite coach Troy Thomas, whose program won consecutive Pac-5 championships in 2009 and 2010. "I think they're a great football team even without him."
Junior Josh Canty guide the offense in the first half to a 7-0 lead, and sophomore Kyle Sweet finished the job in the second.
Canty completed five of eight pass attempts for 29 yards; he had two passes intercepted. He also rushed three times for seven yards. Sweet looked more comfortable of the two, as he complted six of seven passes for 36 yards, and rushed 11 times for 52 with a touchdown—a 2-yard run with 5 minutes 29 seconds left in the game.
"It was a little nerve-wracking," Sweet said. "I have to give it all to the line, they made the game tonight, and the defense as well. I knew that if I just held on to the ball and kept it in our hands, we had the athletes to pull it off, and we did.
"Going back to the offensive line, they're the studs of the team. They told me it was OK and kept me calm."
The line is comprised of Frank DiPietro, Austin Maihen, Dane Crane, Ryan Kilander and Riley Sorenson.
Canty had the more difficult job, said Coach Harry Welch, noting that no one knew how Santa Margarita would react without Stanton, and they didn't know what they would get from Servite.
They got a good effort from the Friars, who are as young as Santa Margarita is experienced. They start a freshman and eight sophomores, including quarterback Travis Waller.
Despite their youth, the Servite defense clearly hadn't forgotten how to hit.
"There won't be any tougher teams," Welch said. "There may be more experienced—they're a very young team—more sophisticated offenses, but nobody's going to be tougher than the Friars.
"Anyone who looks past them—they're fools."
Having dismissed the spectre of Servite invincibility in league, Santa Margarita will next week play host to Mater Dei (5-1, 1-), which defeated JSerra, 42-10. Mater Dei is ranked No. 14 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports.
Servite (2-4, 0-1) was shut out for the third time in four games, although it had opportunities to score. A 48-yard field goal attempt was wide, and a 25-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Gian Carlo Spinosi. A sure 60-yard touchdown pass in the waning seconds of the first half glanced off the receiver's hands.
It was the third shutout of the season by the Santa Margarita defense, which was led by Nick Begg, who had two sacks, and Connor O'Brien, who delivered some punishing hits from the defensive backfield.
Sweet said the Eagle offense carried him under its wing in the second half. He was helped by a bad snap on a punt that set up a 17-yard drive, with Ryan Wolpin scoring from 3 yards with 1:01 left in the third quarter.
Wolpin, who missed three days of school with the flu and was operating at about 60 percent, rushed 14 times for a season-low 64 yards and two touchdowns. He had an 18-yard gain on third-and-11 that kept the first scoring drive alive, which culminated in his 1-yard run with 3:33 left in the first half.
"Defense played very well," Welch said. "The defense was consistent from the beginning to the very end. The kicking game was solid. The offense is going to get a whole lot better. Try two new quarterbacks after Johnny Stanton, who's been the man for 20 consecutive games. Throw someone in there in the middle of the season is very, very difficult. I was very proud of Josh Canty, very proud of Kyle Sweet. They were thrown into the fire."