The Estancia High football team has accomplished something it last did 21 years ago.
The Eagles are outright league champions after going undefeated in Orange Coast League play.
Estancia owns the league and bragging rights in the city of Costa Mesa after defeating rival Costa Mesa, 35-6, in the Battle for the Bell at Jim Scott Stadium Friday.
The previous time the Eagles finished 5-0 in league play was in 1989, when they claimed the Sea View League crown. Estancia won its fourth league title in the football program's history, and half of them have come under Coach Mike Bargas.
Bargas, who is in his fourth year at Estancia, led the Eagles to a share of the league championship in his first season in 2007. The Eagles capped their perfect league season by ending a two-game losing streak to the Mustangs in the rivalry game and ruining Costa Mesa's CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoff hopes.
Estancia (6-4) opens the postseason Friday at home against Beckman (5-5), an at-large entry from the Pacific Coast League. The first-round game is a tough draw for the Eagles.
Beckman beat Estancia, 31-0, on Oct. 8 at Tustin High. That game ended a three-game stretch in nonleague play in which the Eagles went winless and were outscored, 75-13.
With the game and the outright Pacific Coast League title on the line, Corona del Mar High defensive end Alex Herrera gave it all he had when he went on the hunt tracking Beckman quarterback Cameron Biedgoly Friday at Tustin High.
Herrera's hot pursuit happened on a two-point-conversion attempt, with 53 seconds left to play, and the Sea Kings clinging to a 17-15 lead.
"I was held pretty good on the play but I was zoned in on taking him down," said the 5-foot-9, 200-pound senior. "I wasn't giving up."
Herrera chased Biedgoly toward the Beckman sideline and forced the 6-3 junior to stop and throw high into the end zone, just before stepping out of bounds. Biedgoly threw toward running back Zack Rivera who leaped for the ball which trickled off his finger tips and fell incomplete.
Or so thought Herrera.
"I watched the whole play and thought, 'Yes, we won!' he said. "Then I realized that there would still be an onside kick. We needed to make one more play."
On the ensuing onside kick CdM junior Aaron White recovered after a mad scramble, allowing the Sea Kings to run out the clock.
With a strong playoff run, Sage Hill school could stake its claim as the best in the school's nine-year varsity history.
The Lightning (8-2) played St. Margaret's the closest of any Sage team yet in a 10-6 loss. And they can equal the most wins in program history, nine, with a win at Twentynine Palms in the first round of the CIF Southern Section East Valley Division playoffs Friday night.
The 2005 team, which finished 9-2, owns the program's only playoff victory. That year's team edged Pasadena Poly, 28-27, in the first round of the then-Division XIII playoffs before losing to Campbell Hall.
Newport Harbor High's 35-0 Sunset League win over Fountain Valley Friday at Huntington Beach High was the Sailors' second straight shutout. The last time the Sailors had back-to-back blankings was the first two games of the 2006 season.
The PCL champion Sea Kings play host to Ocean View, the Golden West League's No. 3 team, in the opening round of the CIF Southern Division playoffs Friday at Newport Harbor High.
Herrera said winning league was just the first step of fulfilling a conversation, he said, took place four years ago.
"Winning league is like a dream come true," he said. "We talked about winning league and then going on to win CIF my freshman year. To actually do half of that so far, is amazing. We're really excited now for CIF. That's our next goal."
Estancia and Costa Mesa met for the 44th time. The Eagles lead the series, 25-18-1.
Estancia stopped the Mustangs from winning the game for a third straight year, which Costa Mesa had only done twice since the rivalry began in 1966.
For the first time since Coach Jeremy Osso's debut season in 2006, Costa Mesa will not be participating in the CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoffs.
The Mustangs ended their regular season with back-to-back Orange Coast League losses, eliminating them from postseason consideration.
Costa Mesa (3-7, 2-3 in league) needed to beat rival Estancia last week for a chance to return to the playoffs, but it fell in the Battle for the Bell, 35-6, at Jim Scott Stadium. The Mustangs finished tied for fourth place with Laguna Beach. Calvary Chapel and Godinez clinched the league's second and third playoff berths.
The Mustangs dominated time of possession, running 40 plays to Estancia's 14 in the first half, but two turnovers in the red zone and mistakes on special teams put them behind, 21-0, at halftime.
Lightning senior running back Taylor Ross finished the regular season as Orange County's second-leading rusher, with 1,766 yards.
Ross only trailed Luis Soto of Saddleback (1,973 yards), although Ross also led the county with 25 touchdown runs.
All sophomore running back Robert Murtha needs are 15 yards to become Estancia's single-season rushing record holder.
Murtha has a great shot to break Carlos Mendez' 1,584-rushing mark he set in 2007. Murtha has also been on a touchdown tear, he has seven touchdowns in the past two games, giving him 19 for the season.
One might say the Fountain Valley defense ran into a Buzzy-saw in the person of junior tailback Buzzy Yokoyama. Yokoyama, who has been edging his way back to full strength after sustaining a dislocated kneecap in the preleague season, averaged more than 10 yards on his 22 carries and he finished with three rushing touchdowns.
Yokoyama, who had a fourth touchdown run nullified by a holding penalty, either carried or caught a pass on 19 of the 26 plays that comprised the Tars' first four touchdown drives.
CdM's offense came in averaging nearly 31 points in four previous league games.
Four turnovers Friday didn't help the offense's cause.
Herrera was in on four defensive plays that resulted in big losses.
"We were pretty jacked up," he said. "Our defense has really turned into a family and we really have each other's back. We knew what was on the line."
Herrera was one of several Sea Kings who made big defensive stops.
Junior cornerback Cole Cottrell intercepted a pass at the CdM five-yard line late in the first quarter to end a scoring threat.
Senior safety Peter Markel intercepted a pass in the back of the CdM end zone with just 24 seconds left in the first half, protecting CdM's 7-0 lead at the break.
Late in the fourth quarter, junior Matt English hustled down field in punt coverage to recover a fumble on the return, setting up CdM at the Beckman 18.
That led to a five-yard touchdown run by junior Erik Fisher with 2:16 left that moved the Sea Kings from a precarious, 10-9 lead to a 17-9 advantage.
"Our defense played a phenomenal game," CdM Coach Jason Hitchens said after his team clinched the program's first outright league title since 1988. "They were making some big hits and really kept us in the game. I was real proud of their effort."
Sage Hill likes to run the ball, but Lightning Coach J.R. Tolver was also impressed with the passing game in Friday's 50-20 victory over Crean Lutheran South. Senior quarterback Randall Mycorn completed five of seven passes for 114 yards and three TDs. Two of the touchdown passes were to his favorite target, Taylor Petty, who had three catches for 98 yards.
"I think we've put those two guys in a position to be successful," Tolver said. "Taylor Petty is a pretty darn good deep-ball runner, and Randall is pretty good about throwing the ball in those types of routes … That's huge for us, having a second dimension. The first playoff game we play, there's going to be eight guys in the box, and we know that. It's going to challenge our skill positions on the outside to make plays; I believe we'll be able to do that though."
Osso is excited about next season, when he expects eight Costa Mesa starters to return.
Quarterback Nathan Alvis highlights the group. In his first year as a varsity starter, he threw for 1,453 yards and 12 touchdowns, and recorded 504 yards and 11 touchdowns rushing.
Junior receivers Jordan Walden, Trace Curet and Jake Comer, should also return, as may offensive linemen Oscar Reyes, Jake Martin, Christian Contreras and Charles Mankin.
— From staff reports