Kyle Sweet may not be Johnny Stanton, but he’s turning into a pretty good Kyle Sweet.
The sophomore quarterback, who was thrust into a starting role for Santa Margarita Catholic after Stanton was injured, led the Eagles to victory in the first round of the Southern Section Pac-5 playoffs.
Sweet’s trying to help the Eagles successfully defend their section title, and he passed the first-round test on Friday with a 38-13 victory over El Toro at Trabuco Hills High.
Sweet rushed for 65 yards and passed for 208 yards—and no interceptions—in a game that pitted him against Utah-bound Conner Manning.
Though Manning put up great numbers in his career and this season, his season is over despite passing for 322 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Sweet, though, will get a chance to do what Stanton did seven weeks ago: Beat Ventura St. Bonaventure.
The Eagles (9-2) will host top-seeded St. Bonny (10-1), a 39-7 winner over Long Beach Cabrillo, next week at Saddleback College. That was the last game Stanton played before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Santa Margarita won that game, 35-27, and needed every bit of Stanton to do so.
In a rematch, the Eagles will need every bit of the best Sweet has to offer.
That's about what the Eagles got from Sweet on Friday. He passed for two third quarter touchdowns that turned a three-point lead into a 24-7 margin that gave the Eagles some separation from the high-scoring Eagles, who had averaged 49.5 points this season.
But it was a team victory, too. Ryan Wolpin, who has been hampred for weeks with nagging injuries, rushed 26 times for 250 yards and touchdowns of 1 and 3 yards. He also had a 68-yard gain that set up Duncan Hume’s 14-yard score for a 31-13 lead with 8:06 left
And not to be outdone, the defense limited Manning to two touchdown passes, his 40th and 41st of the season.
Santa Margarita held a 10-7 lead at halftime, and the Chargers’ 97-yard drive late in the second quarter—they scored on a 29-yard pass to Cody White in the back of the end zone—gave every indication they were ready to take the Eagles to the wire.
But in the third quarter, after the Eagles’ defense held on the opening possession, Sweet completed six of six passes for 114 yards and touchdowns of 14 yards to Alec McNiff and 9 yards to River Cracraft for a 24-7 advantage with 39 seconds left in the third quarter.
In between those scoring drives, Santa Margarita’s R.J.Mazolewski returned an interception of Manning 52 yards, setting up the 48-yard scoring drive. Manning had driven the Chargers to the 24-yard line when Mazolewski foiled the critical drive.
Manning, who had entered last week's South Coast League finale against Mission Viejo with 39 TDs and only three interceptions, finished the season with 41 TDs and 10 interceptions; he was picked six times against Mission in a 49-7 loss.
The runner-up in the Southwest Division last season before changing leagues and moving up this year, El Toro’s last best rally followed with Manning throwing 12 yards to Dominic Collins, but the point-after was blocked—by Mazolewski—and the Chargers trailed 24-13.
Wolpin followed by peeling off his 68-yard gain that preceded Hume’s score.