SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — T.J. Danner has opened up holes for dozens of rushing touchdowns in his Sage Hill School football varsity career.
On Friday night, the lineman got his turn to be the running back. And, judging by the way he completely ran over a Crean Lutheran South defensive back in the open field on the way to a 30-yard touchdown, Danner did a bang-up job.
The Lightning similarly were able to defeat the Saints in their regular-season finale, scoring early and often in a 50-20 rout at JSerra High. Sage Hill (8-2, 2-1) clinched second place in the Academy League and a CIF Southern Section East Valley Division playoff berth; the pairings will be released Sunday.
The 30-yard touchdown in the third quarter on a run up the middle was the first time that Danner, listed at 6-foot-1 and 260 pounds, had found the end zone in his varsity career. The stalwart of the Lightning line said he hadn't run for a score since his flag football days.
"That was pretty exciting," Danner said. "I'm used to the trenches. I'm used to hitting. I don't think defensive backs are used to it as much. Once I got through that first line, I wasn't going to let him [tackle] me."
Sage Hill also wasn't going to let overmatched Crean Lutheran (0-10, 0-3) stop it, although Sage Coach J.R. Tolver knows the Saints are much-improved. Last year, they didn't score a single point.
"If you look at them this year as opposed to last year, they're the most improved team in the Academy League," Tolver said. "No doubt about it."
But Tolver knows his Lightning are also improved. They found plenty of ways to score Friday, first through the air as senior quarterback Randall Mycorn (three touchdown passes) found Taylor Petty for a couple of touchdowns.
Senior tailback Taylor Ross was used sparingly on offense, but he ran for 182 yards and two touchdowns on just nine carries. In the second half, he let Danner and junior Eric Cheng — who had a 65-yard touchdown run — have the fun.
The Lightning were ahead, 50-6, after three quarters before the Saints got on the board on a pair of touchdown passes from senior quarterback Matt Homan.
"I was proud of the way my guys played, and the sportsmanship they showed," Tolver said.
He said if he had to put it on a scale of one-to-10, he'd put the Lightning at about a seven on the likelihood of hosting a playoff game Friday.
"I think we've been playing really well," Danner said. "The two games before this [St. Margaret's and Brethren Christian] were really close and I think we showed a lot. Even though we have playoffs next week, it's nice to get this league win and have a lot of kids play."
Sage Hill 50, Crean Lutheran South 20
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Sage Hill 14 – 15 – 21 – 0 — 50
Crean 6 – 0 – 0 – 14 — 20
SH – Petty 29 pass from Mycorn (Ross kick), 7:37.
SH – Ross 67 run (Ross kick), 3:05.
CL – Homan 2 run (pass failed), 0:00.
SH – Petty 21 pass from Mycorn (Ross kick), 9:21.
SH – Ross 60 run (Ross run), 2:00.
SH – Hanour 9 pass from Mycorn (Ross kick), 10:00.
SH – Danner 30 run (Ross kick), 6:51.
SH – Cheng 65 run (Ross kick), 4:02.
CL – Tooker 4 pass from Homan (pass failed), 11:50.
CL – Corey 5 pass from Homan (Homan pass to Kilduff), 2:43.
SH – Ross, 9-182, 2 TDs.
CL – Cox, 20-102.
SH – Mycorn, 5-7-0, 112, 3 TDs.
CL – Homan, 10-28-2, 120, 2 TDs.
SH – Petty, 3-98, 2 TDs.
CL – Corey, 2-52, 1 TD.