NEWPORT COAST — A Sage Hill School football team that came in looking for reassurance, left visiting Saddleback Valley Christian looking for mercy Friday night.
Lightning senior Taylor Ross ran for 181 yards and five touchdowns and the hosts (6-1), coming off their first loss of the season, amassed 429 yards of total offense and scored on eight of their first 10 possessions.
Sage Hill, ranked No. 9 in the CIF Southern Section East Valley Division, will now take a week off as it prepares for its Academy League opener against perennial power St. Margaret's. Oct. 29 at home.
"We've been grinding for seven weeks," Sage Coach J.R. Tolver said. "At 6-1 we are ahead of where I thought we would be at this point, going into the bye week. I'm pleased with it. Hopefully, the bye week gets our bangs and bruises healed up and come out and have a good league opener."
The final nonleague tune-up could not have been anything but pleasing to Tolver, as the Lightning had scoring "drives" one play (twice), two plays (twice), three plays (twice) and four plays, to go with an 11-play, 66-yard march.
Ross, who became the school's all-time career rushing leader (now 2,239 yards), also upped his single-season school record total to 1,302. His five rushing scores give him 20 for the season, another single-season standard he had shared coming into the contest.
Ross scored on runs of 37, 30, 17, seven and one yards and with five conversion kicks totaled 35 points.
Junior Eric Cheng was also a catalyst offensively, scoring on a 69-yard run and catching an 82-yard bomb from senior quarterback Randall Mycorn for another touchdown. Cheng finished with 103 rushing yards on six attempts and his lone reception gave him 185 yards from scrimmage.
Mycorn finished six of eight for 152 yards and one touchdown passing.
Junior Taylor Petty (four catches for 61 yards) was the beneficiary of Mycorn's other touchdown pass.
Sage's defense was also impressive, with junior outside linebacker David Fenner, Ross, Petty, and junior cornerback Conner Ascher leading the way.
The Warriors (1-5) had 14 plays running plays that lost yards and produced 70 yards on 39 rushing attempts. SVC completed just one pass.
Ascher recovered an onside kick set up when SVC committed a personal foul on the Cheng's 69-yard touchdown run, to set up Sage's second touchdown.
Petty recovered a dropped punt snap, then broke tackles after a reception on the ensuing play to score and up the lead to 26-0 with 5:07 left in the first half.
Sage needed just eight plays to score three third-quarter TDs, then scored on its third play of the fourth quarter after Fenner recovered another SVC fumble at the Warriors' 36-yard line.
Sage, which with 23 players in uniform subbed as liberally as it could, surrendered the shutout with 2:46 left.
"Coming off a loss, it's always good to see your kids come out and respond and get back on track," Tolver said. "We try to do everything with class and try to keep the game as manageable as possible. But I was happy to see our kids fighting and playing hard to the very end.
"We don't have many bodies … At some point, you feel bad about it, but at the same time, I only have  guys suited up."
Sage Hill 53, Saddleback Valley Christian 7
SCORE BY QUARTERS
SVC 0 – 0 – 0 – 7 — 7
Sage Hill 13 – 13 – 20 – 7 — 53
SH – Cheng 69 run (Ross kick), 4:11.
SH – Ross 30 run (run failed), 3:31.
SH – Ross 7 run (kick failed), 9:07.
SH – Petty 15 pass from Mycorn (Ross kick), 5:07.
SH – Cheng 82 pass from Mycorn (Ross kick), 10:07.
SH – Ross 17 run (Ross kick), 6:03.
SH – Ross 1 run (run failed), 0:32.
SH – Ross 37 run (Ross kick), 9:50.
SVC – MacNaughton 3 run (Castle kick), 2:46.
SVC – MacNaughton, 17-48, 1 TD.
SH – Ross, 18-181, 5 TDs; Cheng, 6-103, 1 TD.
SVC – Ogan, 1-4-0, 19.
SH – Mycorn, 6-8-0, 152, 2 TDs.
SVC – Curren, 1-19.
SH – Petty, 4-61, 1 TD.