Murtha takes over

Midway through the day at Estancia High, Robert Murtha received news he expected to hear from his football coach. Murtha ended up reading it in the newspaper he picked up in a teacher's classroom.

Murtha learned he was going to start at running back in his varsity debut.

The headline read, "Boy to start for Estancia." The only boy on the team is the 15-year-old Murtha.

Robert Murtha Sr. calls his son by the nickname. Instead of calling Murtha the day before the Eagles' season opener last week, he sent a text.

Dad delivered a tease, texting his son that he was on the cover of the sports section. As fast as possible, Murtha got a hold of a copy.

Words failed to describe how Murtha said he felt after Coach Mike Bargas named him the starter.

"A dream come true," Murtha said.

Murtha lived it 24 hours later. The numbers Murtha recorded in his first start last week showed the 5-foot-9, 170-pounder is ready for this level.

Murtha rushed for four touchdowns and 128 yards as Estancia ran all over Bolsa Grande en route to a 55-0 home victory. Close to 15 of Murtha's family members went to the game at Jim Scott Stadium, including his girlfriend, her sister and father.

Murtha said he felt the support. He did not let anyone down, including Bargas, who went with a sophomore at tailback.

To gauge how nervous Murtha said he felt, on his first carry, second-guesses hit him before would-be tacklers.

"Everything started hitting me, 'What if I fumble? What if I do this?' " Murtha said.

Nine yards later, after falling inches from the goal line, Murtha shook the nerves. The only question he had now was when was he was going to score his first varsity touchdown?

On carry No. 2, Murtha ran to the right, behind guard Tony Toledo and 6-foot-5, 295-pound tackle Zach Bateman. A linebacker met him at the line of scrimmage. Murtha pushed forward and found the end zone.

"After my first series, I knew we were going to have a good game," Murtha said.

The game played at a fast speed, one Murtha never experienced last season on the freshman level.

Adjusting was not an issue. Murtha shifted into high gear. In three quarters, he turned in a performance similar to the ones on the lower level. Last season, Murtha said he said he rushed for 1,642 yards and 24 touchdowns as a freshman.

If Murtha continues his 128-yard, four-touchdown pace, he is in store for a 1,280-yard and 40-touchdown regular season.

"I've gotten off to a good start," Murtha said. "Hopefully I can keep it going."

Nine games remain in the regular season. Murtha wants to extend the season.

The Eagles expect to return to the CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoffs for the second straight season. Murtha is more optimistic.

"I want to bring back a CIF championship to Estancia," said Murtha, unaware the school has not won a section playoff game since 1980, let alone a section football title in the school's history.

With Murtha in the backfield, the Eagles plan to reach new heights.

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