GARDEN GROVE — The whole point of nonleague football is to see what your team is made of, especially to see what your strengths and weaknesses are.
In a 21-6 loss to Pacifica at Bolsa Grande High Saturday night, Costa Mesa (2-3) saw plenty of things to work on. It also found some encouraging signs going into its Orange Coast League opener on Oct. 5 at Estancia.
The bye week couldn't have come at a better time, as starting running back Justin Smith is out with an injured ankle and was wearing sandals on the sideline Friday night. Eric Diaz filled in admirably and rushed for 53 yards on 15 carries. Also out with injuries were offensive linemen Brian Elias and Joseph Quiroz, plus center Rudy Aguirre had a hip injury early in the fourth quarter.
Mustangs head coach Wally Grant said at this point, all four were up in the air as to whether they will play against Estancia.
"It's a good time for a bye week," Wally Grant said. "We were out four starters. Hopefully, we can get healthy and get ready for league play."
Things to work on included pass defense – the Mariners (2-2) gained 155 yards through the air. They also used their air game to set up its two touchdowns, over 144 yards of offense in the first two drives in taking a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
"We have a hard time simulating game speed with a limited amount of players on our team," Grant said. "We started out slow and I've got to figure that out."
The second area Costa Mesa struggled with was the quarterback exchange with backup center Allen Obregon and senior quarterback Noah JeyaRajah, as the two couldn't cleanly get the snap off in losing two fumbles in consecutive drives midway in the fourth quarter. Obregon filled in for Aguirre, whose hip was injured just before the first fumble inside the Pacifica 26-yard line and the Mariners up only 14-6. The second fumble set up a six-yard run by Avery Watson for the backbreaker.
But to Obregon and the O-line's credit, it played well almost the entire game, allowing zero sacks and only one tackle for loss.
"We shot ourselves in the foot," JeyaRajah said. "I was playing with two centers most of the game. We've got to get things cleaned up."
But JeyaRajah, running back Eric Diaz and the offense racked up 173 yards of total offense and could have easily gained more, if not for the fumbles and three failed fourth-down conversions that were one yard away from being first downs.
"I'm very encouraged," JeyaRajah said. "We had guys step up [for injured starters] and I liked how hard they played."
Costa Mesa's lone touchdown came with 14 seconds left before halftime. Markiece Taylor caught a nifty lob of a pass by JeyaRajah for a 15-yard touchdown. The score was set up by Taylor's own 28-yard interception return off of Pacifica quarterback Nick Howard.
Howard finished 11 for 15 for 155 yards, with 10 of those passes and 119 yards going to receiver Michael Flatebo.
Pacifica 21, Costa Mesa 6
At Bolsa Granda High
SCORE BY QUARTERS
CM 0 – 6 – 0 – 0 – 6
Pacifica 14 – 0 – 0 – 7 – 21
Pac – Watson 2 run (Alcade kick), 8:34.
Pac – Howard 15 run (Alcade kick), :11
CM – Taylor 15 pass from JeyaRajah (Diaz run failed), :14.
Pac – Watson 6 run (Alcade kick) , 4:27.
CM – Diaz, 15-53.
Pac – Gehres 8-74.
CM – JeyaRajah, 9-17-0, 98, 1 TD.
Pac – Howard, 11-15-1, 0 TD.
CM – Taylor, 6-54, 1 TD.