Los Angeles Times

High School Football: Murtha presence at Estancia


•The Eagles' star running back Robert Murtha graduated last year and is now at Orange Coast College. But Estancia still has a Murtha on the sidelines every week.

It is Robert's mom, Christine, who is the Estancia football trainer this year.

Bargas said the Eagles' former trainer, Kelsey Blackard, went off to college.

"We were scrambling to get a trainer, and [Murtha] is qualified, and she loves football," Bargas said. "She stepped up at the last minute, and she's awesome. She doesn't 'mother hen' the kids; she's very professional. She wants to be a part of the program. She does everything in a loving way, but not too motherly. She actually will send kids back on the practice field, which I appreciate. If a kid breaks a cuticle or something, it's 'Get back out there.'

"She's awesome. It's nice to have the Murthas still stay with the Estancia football family."

•Estancia High might be the underdog going into Friday night's Orange Coast League opener, the Battle for the Bell game at Jim Scott Stadium.

Coach Mike Bargas has led his team to victory in the contest against Costa Mesa for three years in a row. He said he sees his team as being able to contend in the Orange Coast League, despite being picked to finish fourth in the six-team league before the season began.

Estancia (2-3) returned just one combined starter this year on both sides of the ball. But sophomore quarterback Connor Brown made some impressive throws in Friday's 19-14 nonleague victory over Sonora, including a 53-yard touchdown pass to junior Dalton O'Daly in the first quarter. Brown threaded the needle, getting the ball to O'Daly just before the defensive back could get there.

Brown passed for a season-high 156 yards and the touchdown.

"We dropped a couple of balls, but we showed we can throw the ball and that's what we have to do," Bargas said. "We have to be balanced. Unfortunately, when you have a sophomore you make bad mistakes, but he made a lot of good [decisions] tonight."

•Bargas said the Bell game is "not the end-all game," but obviously his team would like to open league with a win against a rival.

"That's OK," Bargas said when told some observers have picked Costa Mesa to win the league. "I think you've got to respect Laguna Beach as the reigning league champion, and I think Godinez has a very good football team. Coach [Chris] Cox at Calvary has gotten them going, and I know Saddleback is struggling ... but anybody can beat anybody."

— Matt Szabo


•Newport Harbor High goes into Sunset League play without much momentum.

The Sailors' hopes to enter league with two straight wins were dashed last week, as they lost to Manhattan Mira Costa, 33-21, at Davidson Field.

They finished the nonleague portion of the schedule 2-3 when they easily could've gone 3-2. A late turnover ruined the Sailors' potential game-winning drive.

Newport Harbor looks to bounce back at home on Thursday at 7 p.m., when it opens league against Los Alamitos (5-0), ranked No. 3 in the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division poll.

The Sailors have beaten Los Alamitos in five of the last six years.

"Hopefully we get a few guys back and we play better than we did [Friday night]," said Coach Jeff Brinkley, whose Sailors played Mira Costa without linebackers Riley Gaddis (ankle) and Keaton Cablay (concussion), and offensive lineman TJ Tarazevits (foot).

•Quest Truxton and Garret Hall each had big kickoff returns, setting up the Sailors past midfield and in Mira Costa territory.

Truxton returned one 50 yards late in the second quarter, and Hall 44 yards late in the third quarter.

The returns led to zero points. Each time, Newport Harbor was unable to add to its one-point lead.

The Sailors lost a fumble two plays after Truxton's return.

After Hall's return, Newport Harbor elected to punt from Mira Costa's 40-yard line, rather than go for it on fourth-and-one.

Giving up the ball led to Mira Costa's go-ahead scoring drive.

The Mustangs went 88 yards in 14 plays, chewing up a little more than seven minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter. They punched it into the end zone on Sebastian Franck-Love's one-yard run on fourth-and-goal with 3:53 left to play.

The play marked the fourth time Mira Costa went for it on a fourth-down situation. The Mustangs moved the chains on two of three fourth downs, keeping two drives alive in which they wound up scoring touchdowns in the first and second quarters.

"Just playing to win," Mira Costa Coach Don Morrow said of his decision to go for it on fourth down so many times. "On the road, we've had a couple of tough games, and so I think we're trying to send a message to everybody. I think the kids knew what the message was. We came down here for a reason, right?"

•After quarterback Cole Norris threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Truxton to give the Sailors a 21-13 lead with 3:35 left in the third quarter, Mira Costa scored the game's final 20 points.

The Mustangs went on to defeat Newport Harbor for the fourth time in five years.

•On the second play from scrimmage, Newport Harbor tailback Chance Siemonsma went left and broke an 80-yard touchdown run.

The rest of the way, the Sailors rushed 18 times for a paltry 24 yards.

Siemonsma carried the ball 11 times for 118 yards.

Mira Costa outgained the Sailors, 392-104, on the ground.

Newport Harbor gave up 213 rushing yards to Franck-Love. The senior had 36 carries and three went for touchdowns.

Newport Harbor's defense allowed five touchdown runs. The longest scores were from 42, 40 and 32 yards.

— David Carrillo Peñaloza


•Sage Hill School Coach J.R. Tolver is always looking for teaching moments, and ways to inspire his players. So, in a team meeting Monday following the Lightning's 37-30 four-overtime win over nonleague visitor Silver Valley, Tolver asked junior tight end-fullback Logan Cook to stand up.

"Logan plays a bunch of plays for us, but he's not what I would call an impact player for us," Tolver said. "But he wound up scoring what was the game-winning touchdown [on fourth-and-goal from the one in the fourth overtime] for us. I asked him when he got out of bed on Friday, if he thought he would score a touchdown to win the game. He started laughing, and then the rest of the players started laughing too. But I wanted to make the point that we all have to have the mentality that every one of us can make the biggest play of the game every week, even though we never know what play that might be. It's a mind-set thing."

•Another supporting player in Sage's win Friday was freshman quarterback Caden Sheetz, who was supposed to get a handful of plays, but played more, after starting quarterback C.J. McCord left the game late in the first half with a stinger in his neck and shoulder.

"It was his varsity debut and we envisioned a reduced role for him," Tolver said. "But he had been making so many plays in our junior varsity games and with our scout team in practice that we started calling him Johnny Football, because he wears a No. 2 jersey in practice.

Sheetz, who wore No. 4 on Friday, entered the game at quarterback on the Lightning's first fourth-quarter possession and also helped spell sophomore backup Robbie Rosoff in overtime.

Sheetz, who appeared to be about 5-foot-5 and 140 pounds, took some crushing blows while keeping the ball in the read-option. But he had one carry for 12 yards and completed one of his three passes for 25 yards on the first play of a five-play, 54-yard touchdown drive that helped the Lightning take a 20-17 lead with 2:16 left in the fourth quarter.

Rosoff also distinguished himself in relief, throwing two touchdown passes to give him eight in the last three games.

•McCord was injured when he collided with a metal bench positioned about eight yards from the visitors' sideline. He had scrambled 20 yards to the Silver Valley 49-yard line and was decelerating out of bounds when Silver Valley linebacker Brian Ili inexplicably pushed him about five yards beyond the boundary. Ili, who Tolver said was the Trojans' best all-around player, was ejected from the game and a personal-foul penalty moved the ball to the 34-yard line.

McCord did not return, but Tolver said he will be ready for Friday's Academy League opener at St. Margaret's.

The play angered Sage Hill fans, players and coaches and the penalty helped Sage drive 80 yards in 14 plays for a touchdown that gave them a 13-10 advantage.

•Tolver called the four-overtime classic one of the biggest wins in school history and said it is the ideal lead-in to the clash with perennial Academy champion St. Margaret's.

"Every team takes on its own identity and that is a win that can, hopefully, define us," Tolver said. "That should help us take some momentum into the St. Margaret's game, because it doesn't get any better than that."

Tolver called St. Margaret's the puzzle and equated the Tartars, which Sage has never beaten, as the program's Rubik's Cube, because "We've never figured out a way to solve them.

"We know teams have beaten them, just like Rubik's Cube has been solved," Tolver said. "We just need to figure out a way to get it done."

— Barry Faulkner

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