California is still the golden state. In the nationally televised battle between the top-ranked high school football teams from California and Arizona, Santa Margarita Catholic showed what it can get away with.
Which was a lot.
The Eagles were penalized often and committed four turnovers, had a punt blocked for a touchdown and still pulled out a 27-14 victory over Phoenix Brophy Prep. And, they did it in Arizona in 95 degree heat.
It was hardly impressive, but it was certainly successful. Nebraska-bound quarterback Johnny Stanton, who seems to do nothing but win, opened the season at Phoenix College by passing for two touchdowns and running for two others.
Stanton and his offensive line, which averages 305 pounds, had the full confidence of coach Harry Welch much like it did last year in the 42-37 victory over San Jose Bellarmine Prep in the Division I State Bowl Championship.In that game, he scored from two yards on fourth down with 16 seconds left.
- Sign up to receive the daily Patch newsletter, or follow RSM Patch on Facebook and Twitter.
- If you're a business owner or manager, claim the free listing for your business here.
Against Brophy, a couple of times the Eagles converted fourth down attempts on touchdown drives. In the third quarter, the Eagles converted a fourth-and-two from its own 24-yard line.
It looked like Welch and the Eagles were interested in making statements, and that kind of bravado—and success—can only be bad news for the rest of their opponents. Stanton, who suffered only eight interceptions last season in 15 games, had two passes picked off on throws that were uncharacteristically high. The Eagles also lost two fumbles. Despite the plus-three takeaway advantage (Santa Margarita intercepted Brophy's last pass of the game), Brophy converted the opportunities into only seven points. Santa Margarita was penalized 10 times for 96 yards.
Brophy’s D’Amani Grayer blocked a punt and recovered in the end zone with 6:44 left to pull within 21-14 and make the game uncomfortable for the Eagles.
But Santa Margarita responded with a 12-play, 68-yard drive with Stanton scoring from three yards with 29 seconds left to seal the victory.
Certainly, the contest would have been more intriguing if Brophy had not played its season opener on Wednesday and had only two days of rest.
Nevertheless, Stanton was Stanton for the Eagles (1-0), who are ranked No. 1 in the nation according to Rivals.com, No. 2 according to USA Today, No. 3 according to PrepNation, and No. 4 according to Maxpreps.com.
Stanton completed 12 of 21 passes for 208 yards, and rushed 16 times for 99.
Ryan Wolpin, who rushed for 19 yards in the first half, finished with 25 carries for 131 yards for the Eagles, and the defense limited Brophy Prep to one touchdown despite its much-heralded passing combination of Washington State-bound quarterback Tyler Bruggman and receiver Devon Allen, who scored on a three-yard end around in the first quarter. Bruggman was 11 for 31 for 171 yards.
Brophy Prep (1-1), ranked No. 1 in Arizona, came into the game ranked No. 65 nationally by Rivals.
Though regarded as the best in their states, neither team looked like the best of anything in the early going. Playing its first game, Santa Margarita had two turnovers on successive plays as Jonathan LaBonty was stripped after a long pass play, and Stanton overthrew a receiver with a pass that was intercepted. It was that turnover that Brophy converted into a 7-0 lead.
But after that, the Eagles started to make headway toward looking the part of national championship contender. Stanton threw a couple of long passes, of 29 and 27 yards, the latter a touchdown to Kyle Sweet. The key play in the drive preceded the touchdown when Stanton converted a fourth-and-two with a quarterback sneak. That tied the score at 7-7 with 7:40 left in the second quarter.
The Eagles converted a short punt into a 43-yard scoring drive with another fourth down conversion. Needing to pick up two yards, Stanton passed for eight and the touchdown to River Cracraft for a 14-7 lead with 1:02 left in the half.
Santa Margarita added to the margin early in the fourth quarter when Stanton scored from five yards for a 21-7 lead with 11:54 remaining. It was a drive that Welch dearly wanted—the 69-yard drive began on a 41-yard play in which Stanton threw a lateral to Conner O’Brien, who threw downfield to Cracraft for a 41-yard gain.