A day after Sage Hill School's remarkable 33-31 nonleague comeback win over Tri-City Christian on Friday night, Coach J.R. Tolver was still excited. Tolver's Lightning came back from a 15-point deficit with less than three minutes to go on a Taylor Ross touchdown run, a touchdown pass from Randall Mycorn to Eric Cheng, two recovered onside kicks and the game-winning field goal from Ross with two seconds left.
But one of the more heady plays was turned in by senior guard T.J. Danner. After Ross' field-goal try was blocked with less than 20 seconds to go, Danner picked up the ball and rumbled 12 yards to the visitors' 10 for a first down. After a spike, Ross got a second chance at the game-winning field goal and nailed it from 28 yards out.
"T.J. is actually probably the fourth- or fifth-fastest player on our team," Tolver said. "We had our big guys out there for the kick. If that ball landed in anyone else's hands besides T.J., we don't get that first down."
Tolver said Danner showed tremendous football I.Q. on the play and was "destroying people" on the line all game to help the Lightning rush for 279 yards.
The Estancia High offense was impressive in Thursday night's season-opening 55-0 nonleague win over Bolsa Grande, the Eagles' most lopsided win since a 56-0 drubbing of the same Matadors in 2006.
But defensively, the Eagles also shined, as they got two interceptions each from Andrew Tenno and Jason Anaya and one from Miguel Mejia. Bolsa Grande's first three possessions all ended in interceptions, and all five came in the first half.
Coach Mike Bargas said the defense the Eagles played was excellent and they were disciplined in their assignments.
Clay Reinhardt got the start at running back again for Corona del Mar High Friday and he topped 100 yards for the second time this season in as many games.
Reinhardt finished with 101 yards on 17 carries as the Sea Kings improved to 2-0 after upsetting Huntington Beach, 16-10, at Newport Harbor High.
Jeff Condino, slated to start at running back during training camp, made his first appearance. Condino missed the Sea Kings' opener with a bruised shoulder.
The senior ran for five yards on six carries.
Buzzy Yokoyama was one of the Sailors who reached out to Cedric Whitaker to return to Newport Harbor High to play football this season.
Whitaker did not come back after rushing for 1,003 yards, totaling 12 touchdowns and earning first-team All-Sunset League honors last season.
Yokoyama has taken advantage of Whitaker's lost opportunity.
The junior is Newport Harbor's starting tailback and he turned in a strong debut last week. Yokoyama rushed for 116 yards on 19 carries in the Sailors' 17-6 season-opening nonleague win at home against Trabuco Hills.
No other running back touched the ball for Newport Harbor until late in the third quarter.
Brinkley said he does not expect the 5-foot-10, 198-pound Yokoyama to carry the load every week. Only two other running backs ran the ball, Drew Diller and Ryan Andrews, and they combined for three carries for eight yards.
Yokoyama also returned two kickoffs. One went for 75 yards with 21 seconds left before halftime. It set up a 27-yard field goal by Christian Ochoa to give Newport Harbor a 10-6 lead.
Yokoyama's other return was for 30 yards.
Costa Mesa High senior running back-defensive end Tyler Sheffner made his season debut Friday in the Mustangs' 26-21 nonleague loss to visiting Santiago at Estancia High.
The team's leading rusher last season missed the season opener with an ulcer and Coach Jeremy Osso said two days before the game that Sheffner was not expected back until this week.
But Sheffner led his team through the paper banner held by cheerleaders before kickoff and he immediately provided a spark when he was inserted in the second quarter.
He rushed for a team-best 42 yards on 10 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns, one on a six-yard run and another on a 10-yard reception.
He was still noticeably pumped-up afterward.
"I'm feeling good," Sheffner said. "The only reason I didn't play last week was that I was hospitalized. I was all ready to go in my nightgown."
Estancia had plenty to cheer, but senior defensive back Jose Espinoza received perhaps the loudest from the crowd and his teammates. The 5-foot-5 Espinoza entered the game on defense in the fourth quarter and when he made a tackle on his first play, the cheering got even louder.
"He's our 'Rudy,' " Bargas said. "The guy practices his tail off, never misses a day. There's a lot of family in this football program, and all the kids root for each other. It's a great nucleus."
Cheng may have been somewhat overshadowed as Ross has rushed for 463 yards through the Lightning's first two games, including a school-record 250 against Fairmont Prep. But Cheng, a junior, was right in the midst of Friday night's thriller.
He caught the key 53-yard touchdown pass with 1:13 to go, bringing Sage within two points. He rushed for 93 yards on just seven carries, including a 60-yard run in the first half. And Cheng was also extremely valuable on special teams, where he had kickoff returns of 52, 45 and 39 yards.
The 45-yard kickoff return was the beginning of Sage's comeback midway through the fourth quarter.
For the second straight game, Ross was stronger in the second half. After being held to 49 yards before halftime, he exploded for 164 yards on 13 second-half carries, often out of the Wildcat formation.
He typified the comeback effort Tolver liked to see. Tolver said he gave a speech before the game that "Your thoughts become words, your words become actions and your actions become your destiny."
"I think the kids realize that what we're saying and what we're teaching is not baloney," Tolver said. "It's legitimate stuff. If you keep fighting, you'll always have a chance to win."
Newport Harbor kicked off Coach Jeff Brinkley's 25th season at the school with another victory.
The Sailors have been stingy in their last eight season openers. They have allowed less than 10 points every time and every time it has produced a victory.
Next up for the Sailors, ranked eighth in the latest CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division poll, is a game against Loyola at Los Angeles Valley College on Friday at 7 p.m.
The programs meet for the second straight year. The Cubs lost last year's contest at Newport Harbor, 28-14.
Loyola dropped to 1-1 after losing at home last week to top-ranked Mission Viejo, 42-7.
The game against Newport Harbor will be the Cubs' third straight against a ranked opponent. In the season opener, Loyola played Mira Costa of Manhattan Beach, which was ranked seventh in the Northern Division poll.
The Sea Kings, ranked No. 10 in the CIF Southern Division, have started 2-0 under Coach Jason Hitchens for the third straight season.
CdM tries to go 3-0 when it travels to play Troy (0-1) at Fullerton High on Thursday at 7 p.m. The Sea Kings have begun the season undefeated in their first three games the past two seasons.
Estancia won its season opener under Bargas for the first time in his four years, but that wasn't the feat that most most impressed him.
He said he was maybe most happy with the fact that no Estancia player was injured, and he got to play everyone in the rout.
Hitchens said the Sea Kings were unable to use Andrew Boehm's strong and accurate leg last season because of their offensive woes.
CdM went to its placekicker four times and Boehm converted three times Friday, booting field goals from 35, 21 and 27 yards. His only miss was a blocked 37-yard field-goal try early in the third quarter.
— From staff reports