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Prep Review : For Heaven’s Sake, How Did El Toro Do It?

The anatomy of a Hail Mary pass.

El Toro High School beat Santa Ana, 13-12, on a 51-yard touchdown pass play from Bret Johnson to Adam Brass with no time remaining in the Southern Conference semifinal game Friday night at Santa Ana Stadium.

Here’s how they did it:

Trailing, 12-6, with one second left and the ball on the right hash mark at the Charger 49-yard line, El Toro is driving toward the north end zone (the scoreboard end of Santa Ana Stadium).

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The Chargers have three receivers lined up on the right side of the formation. On the outside, farthest from Johnson, is Sean Drinkwater. Brass is closest to Johnson. Chris McCarthy is lined up between Brass and Drinkwater. A fourth receiver is positioned on the left of the formation.

Santa Ana counters with three defensive backs on the right. Bobby Joyce, the Saints’ 6-foot 7-inch senior, is positioned as the deep safety way off the line of scrimmage.

Johnson takes the hike and rolls to his right. The Charger line gives him good protection and he throws deep down the sideline.

The ball hangs up. Joyce is closest to the ball as it comes down near the five-yard line about seven to eight yards from the sideline.

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Joyce jumps to get the ball. He has it for a moment above his head and brings it down to his chest. McCarthy is behind him in the end zone. As Joyce gathers the ball in, he bobbles it for an instant.

Brass, sprinting, runs right at Joyce and arrives just as Joyce juggles the ball. Brass snatches it from Joyce and runs past him and into the end zone.

For a moment, there’s no reaction. Players, fans, officials are stunned.

Then an official signals touchdown, and the Chargers’ mob Brass in the ivy covered bank beyond the end zone.

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After the Chargers untangle, Ken Romaniszyn kicks the extra point. El Toro wins, 13-12.

“We never practiced anything like that before,” Johnson said. “We had three receivers on the right side. I didn’t care which way they went. I’ve never been a position to wing it up there before.

“I thought it was overthrown by a lot. If Joyce wouldn’t have touched it, Chris (McCarthy) could have caught it on stride in the end zone.

“I don’t know what he (Joyce) was trying to do. Adam was on his right as he brought it down.”

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Johnson said all he saw was Joyce reach up for the ball and a number players fall down. He never saw Brass catch the ball.

Said Brass: “Now that I think about it, I don’t even remember catching the ball. I just sprinted as fast as I could toward the goal line. I didn’t even see the ball thrown. I saw Bobby Joyce go for the ball and he went up and brought it down with one hand. He was falling back and he just kind of juggled the ball.”

Bret Johnson didn’t know the end result until he looked over to the sideline and saw his father, El Toro Coach Bob Johnson, jump in the air, slip and fall in the mud.

“Adam got mobbed by the offense by the ivy, but we had to kick the point,” Johnson said. “I was worried the refs were going to call delay of game.”

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But they didn’t.

Add El Toro: Johnson, El Toro’s starting quarterback for three seasons, was named the winner of the Gatorade Circle of Champions player of the year for California. Johnson, who hasn’t lost a game in which he’s started in two seasons, edged Russell White, Crespi’s junior running back, for the award.

Add Joyce: One night after the semifinal football game, Joyce was playing in his first varsity basketball game. Joyce was the Saints’ second-leading scorer with 11 points in Saturday night’s 59-54 nonleague victory over Cypress.

Gimme shelter: Atascadero Coach Larry Welsh, who brought his team to Orange County to play Woodbridge last season, said before Friday’s Desert-Mountain semifinal game in Atascadero that he wouldn’t recommend staying overnight before the game.

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“Who wants to be in a motel with a bunch of 17-year-olds?” Welsh asked. “I’d rather have them on a bus . . . actually a prison bus with bars on the windows.”

But Woodbridge Coach Gene Noji is glad he took his team up a day early. The Warriors drove to Atascadero Thursday and spent the night in San Luis Obispo, thus avoiding the hazardous road conditions during Friday’s fierce storm.

In addition, the team was forced to get used to the cold, wet conditions of Central California. Woodbridge’s players checked out of their motel Friday morning.

While the Atascadero Greyhounds were warm and dry in school, the Warriors were touring Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and trying to find some shelter.

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“We were out in the rain all day,” Noji said. “We had to get used to it (the weather).”

The result: In the first half, on their way to a 40-0 victory, the Warriors did not fumble the ball once. Atascadero fumbled it four times, twice setting up Woodbridge touchdowns.

All in the family: Last week was a busy one for Sally Thompson and her Huntington Beach family.

On One day:

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--Rico Thompson, a star player for Huntington Beach High in the late 1970s, was coaching San Marcos in the Newport-Costa Mesa basketball tournament at Newport Harbor High.

--Steve Brooks, an in-law who coaches at Los Alamitos, was entered in the same tournament but his team played at Costa Mesa High.

--Andy Thompson, a junior at Huntington Beach, was playing for Huntington Beach at the Laguna Beach tournament.

Sally--Rico and Andy’s mother--managed to make an appearance at each game.

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Names in the news: Early nomination for longest name in Orange County prep sports this fall belongs to Jo Ann Assawamatiyanont, a girls’ basketball player at Newport Harbor.

Assawamatiyanont is a 5-8 junior guard from Thailand and a starter for Coach David Barela’s Sailors.

Add girls’ basketball: The coach may have quit, the top players graduated, but Edison, the Southern Section 4-A champion last season, has continued to win.

The Chargers (3-1) beat Sunset League rival Huntington Beach, 63-36, in the third-place game of the Irvine tournament Saturday night.

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Froward Krisden Tanabe scored a game-high 18 points for the Chargers, under new coach Mark Shannon, who took over for Dave White, who is coaching the Edison football team. Guard Stephanie Moorman added 16 for Edison, which has lost only to La Quinta.

For what it’s worth: Pacifica running back Oscar Ravelo’s season ended in Saturday’s 21-9 loss to Valencia in the Central Conference semifinals, but the senior compiled some impressive numbers. Ravelo rushed for 1,240 yards in 214 carries to lead the Mariners. As the Mariners’ kicker he had 5 field goals and 20 extra points. He also rushed for a two-point conversion. Add in his 14 touchdowns and Ravelo’s scoring total was 121 points.

Add what it’s worth: When Valencia faces Orange League rival Anaheim in the Central Conference final Friday night, it won’t have a winning district tradition on its side.

The Placentia Unified School District, of which Valencia is a member, has a 1-6 record in title games. Esperanza is 1-3 (losing in 1980, ’82, ’84 and winning in ’79). El Dorado is 0-2 (losing in ’75 and ’78).

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Valencia lost in its only appearance last season.

Kinney cross-country results: Junior Mike Tansley of Dana Hills was Orange County’s top finisher in the Kinney Western Regional meet Saturday at Fresno’s Woodward Park. Tansley, who was second in the Southern Section 4-A meet, ran the 3.1-mile course in 15 minutes 31 seconds for 12th place.

The top eight finishers advanced to the national meet at San Diego’s Balboa Park Saturday.

No county runners were among the qualifiers, however.

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Other top county finishers included: Eddie Lavelle, a Corona del Mar junior, was 13th in 15:33. Jimmy Rodriguez of Santa Ana Valley was 18th in 15:35. Shanon Winkleman of Marina was 23rd in 15:36.

Maricela Benavides of Santa Ana Valley was the top county girls’ finisher, placing 18th in 18:28.


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