Standing at midfield after his team's 22-3 season-opening victory over Trabuco Hills High School, El Toro Coach Mike Milner sounded not only like a new coach, but a new man as well.
"It feels great . . . exhilarating," Milner said of the victory, which came before a crowd of about 5,000 at the newly dedicated Trabuco Hills High School stadium.
Milner, who was head coach at Fountain Valley for the past 12 years, looked right at home in his new Charger sweater, slacks and shirt. But taking over a traditionally strong program such as El Toro suited him even better, he said.
"It's a change, and that's why I came down here. I think I've been received pretty well, I think, and I'm having a great time coaching these kids."
The kids, whom Milner jokingly dubbed, "the Pampers Patrol," because of their youth and inexperience, seemed to need the first half to warm up.
After a 3-3 tie at halftime, El Toro cranked up the intensity a bit, scoring on its first play from scrimmage as Jeff Brizic ran 47 yards through a big hole up the middle and into the end zone. El Toro missed its ensuing kick and led, 9-3.
El Toro scored again early in the fourth quarter as quarterback Bill McFadden found Jason Bailey for a 10-yard scoring play. McFadden's kick helped El Toro to a 16-3 lead.
With the clock running down, the Chargers got off the last play just in time--Trabuco Hills fans didn't seem to see it that way--as Jeff Brizic ran four yards for the score. No extra point was attempted.
The Chargers defense, traditionally one of the county's best, proved strong again. The Chargers intercepted Trabuco Hills quarterback Pat Barnes once, but pestered him throughout the night, holding him to a 9-of-25 passing performance for 106 yards.
But Trabuco Hills Coach Jim Barnett said his team's troubles were because of weaknesses in the offensive line.
"I'm real proud of my defense tonight," Barnett said. "We're just so beat up on our offensive line, though. We couldn't pass block, we couldn't run block . . . "
Trabuco Hills' defense did do some damage early, though. It intercepted McFadden twice in the first half. McFadden finished with an 8-of-19 performance for 87 yards and a touchdown. Wade Jackson caught five of those passes for 49 yards.
In the first half, Trabuco Hills scored on its first possession, with Jason Teno kicking a 40-yard field goal. El Toro responded with a 19-yard field goal by McFadden midway through the first quarter.
"It was a typical first game," Milner said. "Lots of mistakes on both sides. We dropped some balls, I'm concerned about that. We have some real young players, in the first half we were real nervous . . . But I think for a first game, the kids played pretty well."