Santa Ana High football coach Charlie TeGantvoort said that his team has 20 new starters this season.
The Saints may be working with a new group of players than the one that led the program to undefeated league titles the last three years, but TeGantvoort agreed that there comes a time for the new players to prove themselves.
It started on Thursday night, as Santa Ana used a dominant rushing attack to put away Costa Mesa.
Santa Ana rushed for 274 yards and four touchdowns as a team in a 40-9 victory over the Mustangs in an Orange Coast League opener at Santa Ana Stadium.
The Saints (3-3) have now won 17 consecutive league games. The streak dates back to Oct. 30, 2015, when Santa Ana lost to Westminster 26-21 in a Golden West League game.
“We had 20 guys starting for the first time this preseason, and they just needed time to learn how to play football on varsity,” TeGantvoort said. “Hopefully, we’re figuring it out slowly, yet surely. We’ve just got to keep getting better week to week.
“We’ve set the tone in the past, and now it’s up to this new Saints team to keep it going. They know what we’ve done, but now we’re focused on what we’re going to do.”
Jason Costa carried the ball 12 times for 91 yards and two touchdowns for Santa Ana. Miguel Vaca added 93 rushing yards and one touchdown.
Santa Ana got on the board first on a 20-yard scoring scramble by quarterback Aldo Leyva. On their next possession, the Saints got a two-yard rushing touchdown from Costa to take their lead to 13-0 on the first play of the second quarter.
After being gashed on the ground in the first quarter, Costa Mesa put numbers in the box and dared Santa Ana to throw the football. It worked initially, as the Mustangs forced a fumble on a fourth-down run. Erick Ibarra recovered the fumble at the Santa Ana 46.
Costa Mesa (2-4) worked its way back into the game. Quarterback Nick Burton scored on a power run to the right.
On the ensuing defensive series, the Mustangs forced a three-and-out, making Santa Ana to punt deep in its own territory. A poor snap resulted in punter Jesus Olvera kicking the ball out of the back of his own end zone for a safety. Costa Mesa trailed just 13-9 with 2:07 left in the half, but it would be all downhill from there.
The Mustangs got the ball back at midfield following the punt, but a questionable call backed up Costa Mesa before it could get a drive going. Under pressure, Burton rolled out to his right and threw the ball away with Alex Janis stationed on that side of the field.
Santa Ana declined a penalty for an ineligible receiver downfield and accepted an intentional grounding call against the Mustangs. On the next play, Burton was intercepted along the right sideline by Alejandro Mora.
“That was a pretty pivotal play,” Costa Mesa coach Jimmy Nolan said of the intentional grounding ruling. “I saw a receiver there. We were telling him to just throw it out of bounds over the receiver’s head. That’s not supposed to be intentional grounding. I guess [the official] thought that it was too high.
“He’s getting dragged down. The ball doesn’t always come off like Joe Montana when you have three guys on you.”
A chance to take the lead turned into a nightmarish final two minutes for Costa Mesa, which dropped its 11th straight league game. Leyva fired deep for a 26-yard touchdown to Pablo Perez, a pass he pulled in after it was deflected by Mustangs defensive back Andrew Pham.
Opening the second half, Damien Lambert had a 61-yard kickoff return, giving the Saints great field position at the Costa Mesa 25. Jason Costa cashed in with a four-yard rushing score, his second of the night.
On the next Santa Ana drive, Vaca turned his first two touches of the night into 42 rushing yards, including a 27-yard touchdown to give the Saints a 34-9 lead with 6:46 to go in the third quarter.
Burton threw for 111 yards and rushed for a game-high total of 94 yards. Cory Richards led the Mustangs receiving corps with three grabs for 37 yards, while Janis reeled in six passes for 21 yards.
“They all play three ways,” Nolan said of his players competing on offense, defense and special teams. “They really do. I take my hat off to them because that’s hard to do. They’re true gladiators because they don’t come off the field.”
Orange Coast League
Santa Ana 40, Costa Mesa 9
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Costa Mesa 0 – 9 – 0 – 0 — 9
Santa Ana 7 – 13 – 14 – 6 — 40
SA – Leyva 20 run (Olvera kick), 3:03.
SA – Costa 2 run (run failed), 11:55.
CM – Burton 3 run (Oliver kick), 3:40.
CM – Safety (Team), 2:07.
SA – Perez 26 pass from Leyva (Olvera kick), 1:16.
SA – Costa 4 run (Olvera kick), 11:10.
SA – Vaca 27 run (Olvera kick), 6:46.
SA – Olvera 35 FG, 6:10.
SA – Olvera 44 FG, 0:56.
CM – Burton, 14-94, 1 TD.
SA – Vaca, 10-93, 1 TD.
CM – Burton, 17-29-2, 111.
SA – Leyva, 9-14-0, 86, 1 TD.
CM – Richards, 3-37.
SA – Larriva, 5-50.
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