From the opening kickoff until the final play of the game, defenders and opposing coaches could only hold their breath every time Marco Sarfaraz touched the ball.
Sarfaraz, a bruising 5-foot-11, 210-pounder, was the pivotal player in Manhattan Beach Mira Costa's 30-23 victory over Beverly Hills in a key Ocean League game Friday afternoon at Beverly Hills High.
With starting tailback Sunny Byrd out because of a sore hamstring, Mira Costa Coach Don Morrow moved Sarfaraz, a senior who also plays on the defensive line, from fullback to tailback. He rushed for a game-high 122 yards in 24 carries and had two touchdowns. He also caught three passes for 60 yards.
When he wasn't running the ball, Sarfaraz was blocking for the seven other players on his team who carried it. His second touchdown, scored on a two-yard run that looked like a walk into the end zone, gave the Mustangs a 30-8 lead late in the third quarter.
"I came into this game today with the idea that I was going to punish some people, so I wasn't surprised when I saw their fear," Sarfaraz said. "This was the most I've ever carried the ball before, but I didn't mind at all."
Said Morrow: "Marco responded well to the switch today. It's a luxury to have more than one quality player to call on. He certainly proved he's more than capable."
The victory improved Mira Costa's record to 2-0 in league play and 4-1 overall. Beverly Hills dropped to 4-1, 1-1.
Normans' quarterback Rich Wall led a second-half comeback with two touchdown passes.
His first, a four-yard pass to Brandon Nash late in third quarter, cut Mira Costa's lead to 30-16. After shutting down the Mustangs and Sarfaraz, Beverly Hills regained the ball. Wall completed an 80-yard drive by hitting Andre Farkas on a four-yard slant pass for a touchdown with five minutes to play, trimming the Normans' deficit to seven points.
Wall completed 13 of 20 passes for 216 yards, 156 in the second half.
Mira Costa began its final possession on its own 26, and with Sarfaraz picking up a couple of key first downs, ran out the clock.