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Second-half surge sends Costa Mesa football over Saddleback

Costa Mesa's Victor Dominguez (2) recovers a fumble against Saddleback in an Orange Coast League game at Costa Mesa High.
Costa Mesa’s Victor Dominguez (2) recovers a fumble in the second quarter against Saddleback in an Orange Coast League game at Costa Mesa High on Friday.
(James Carbone)

Costa Mesa High had its homecoming game on Friday night, and Riley Weinstein, the Mustangs’ standout wide receiver, had been nominated to the homecoming court.

Flattering as that may be, Weinstein had other business to attend to. He did not take part in the festivities at halftime, but he still had reason to celebrate at the end of the night.

Weinstein scored the first defensive touchdown of his career on a 25-yard interception return in the fourth quarter, helping Costa Mesa put Saddleback away in his team’s 28-7 win at home.

Costa Mesa's Ethan Smithlin (8) gets yardage on a punt return against Saddleback in an Orange Coast League game on Friday.
(James Carbone)

Costa Mesa (3-3, 1-1 in the Orange Coast League) scored three touchdowns in a 92-second span between the end of the third and the start of the fourth quarters.

Weinstein, who towers over the competition at 6-foot-9, lined up at defensive end before capping the Mustangs’ scoring outburst.

“I didn’t even think I was going to get it,” Weinstein said. “I just jumped up, and there it was. I was just sprinting full speed, ready to sack him and then I saw him look up at me. It’s like his eyes widened or something. You don’t want to get hit.”

Costa Mesa's Riley Weinstein (11) blocks a punt in the second quarter against Saddleback on Friday.
Costa Mesa’s Riley Weinstein (11) blocks a punt in the second quarter against Saddleback in an Orange Coast League game at Costa Mesa High on Friday.
(James Carbone)

The Mustangs senior recalled seeing Saddleback quarterback Joey Wilson bring the ball back, and then he said he guessed where the ball was going to be thrown.

“I was telling everyone before the game, I was like, ‘I want one defensive touchdown,’” Weinstein said. “I don’t have one ever, and I was like, ‘I need one. I’m getting it this game.’”

“Everyone was so excited. It’s so much different than getting one at receiver. Don’t get me wrong, I love touchdowns from there, but a defensive one is just crazy— the adrenaline and everything.”

Costa Mesa's Riley Weinstein (11) and Diego Ramirez (24) celebrate a touchdown in the fourth quarter against Saddleback.
Costa Mesa’s Riley Weinstein (11) and Diego Ramirez (24) celebrate after a touchdown in the fourth quarter against Saddleback on Friday.
(James Carbone)

The game was too close for comfort for Costa Mesa, which led just 7-0 at halftime on a quarterback sneak by Garrett Richards.

Richards, otherwise, had trouble finding his receivers, and when he did, he was victimized by drops, including one on a surefire touchdown over the middle. The Mustangs signal-caller completed 32% of his passes, and he was three of 16 for 35 yards at the break.

Penalties also set the Mustangs back, as Costa Mesa compiled five personal fouls and 80 penalty yards in the first half.

Costa Mesa's Brett McDonough (22) runs with the ball against Saddleback in an Orange Coast League game on Friday.
(James Carbone)

“We’re going to watch the film and see what we can improve on — the personal fouls, the penalties,” Costa Mesa coach Gary Gonzalez said. “It was definitely a game where, as a coach, you cringe, but got the victory. We have to move forward, and that’s water under the bridge.”

Costa Mesa did strike through the air to double its lead late in the third quarter, as Brett McDonough cradled a pass from Richards in the middle of the end zone for a 5-yard score.

Diego Ramirez also had a 13-yard rushing touchdown to the left pylon for the Mustangs, before Saddleback (2-4, 0-3) ended the shutout bid with a 15-yard rushing score by Antonio Morales.

Costa Mesa's Edward Franco (44) makes an acrobatic catch to get close to the goal line against Saddleback on Friday.
(James Carbone)

The Mustangs’ defense allowed the offense time to do just enough to put the game out of reach. Senior middle linebacker Fernando Guerrero had an interception and a fumble recovery.

“He showed up tonight,” Gonzalez said of Guerrero. “He had a great game, and he tackled well.”

Costa Mesa plays host to Santa Ana (5-2, 3-0) on Oct. 7 at 7 p.m.

Saddleback quarterback Joey Wilson (14) fumbles following a tackle by Costa Mesa's Jafta Howerton on Friday.
Saddleback quarterback Joey Wilson (14) fumbles following a tackle by Costa Mesa’s Jafta Howerton in an Orange Coast League game on Friday.
(James Carbone)

Orange Coast League

Costa Mesa 28, Saddleback 7

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Saddleback 0 – 0 – 0 – 7 — 7

Costa Mesa 0 – 7 – 7 – 14 — 28

FIRST QUARTER

None.

SECOND QUARTER

CM — Richards 1 run (Smithlin kick), 6:13.

THIRD QUARTER

CM — McDonough 5 pass from Richards (Smithlin kick), 0:44.

FOURTH QUARTER

CM — Ramirez 13 run (Smithlin kick), 11:32.

CM — Weinstein 25 interception return (Smithlin kick), 11:12.

S — Morales 15 run (kick), 7:58.

INDIVIDUAL RUSHING

S — Morales, 16-80, 1 TD.

CM — Richards, 9-24, 1 TD.

INDIVIDUAL PASSING

S — Wilson, 7-16-2, 28.

CM — Richards, 8-25-0, 80, 1 TD.

INDIVIDUAL RECEIVING

S — Lemon, 3-23.

CM — McDonough, 5-45, 1 TD.

::

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