COSTA MESA — Last year when Costa Mesa played La Quinta, quarterback Nathan Alvis had a career game.
He had six touchdowns in the game, four passing and two rushing. The performance was needed to give the Mustangs their first win of 2010.
Costa Mesa is improved in Alvis' senior year. He doesn't have to scramble as much. On the Mustangs' first two offensive plays from scrimmage in Friday night's nonleague game against the Aztecs, all he had to do was hand the ball to senior running back Mario Smith.
Smith scored on two long touchdown runs, setting the tone early as Costa Mesa routed La Quinta, 61-0, at Jim Scott Stadium. It was the Mustangs' most points and largest margin of victory since a 63-0 victory, also over La Quinta, in 1999.
The Mustangs (4-1) approached the program's single-game points record, set in a 65-19 victory over Laguna Beach in 1992. Coach Wally Grant was an assistant on that team coached by Myron Miller.
Now this year's Mustangs, who won their fourth straight game and are off to their best start since 2001, are again keeping scoreboard operators busy.
"I've got a ton of talent," said Grant, whose team finished its nonleague schedule averaging more than 41 points per game. "Between Mario, Nate Alvis, [receivers] Trace Curet and Jordan Walden, [tight ends] Charles Mankin and Jake Comer … I've got weapons. If they take one away, the other ones step up. This is a defensive coordinator's nightmare. If they shut down Mario, I've got an exceptional quarterback, two exceptional receivers and an exceptional tight end. And they're unselfish. They know that there's going to be nights when they're not going to get as many touches as they'd like, but there's going to be nights when they're going to get featured.
"It's just been a fun, fun year so far. They're making plays."
Mesa was clinical in the first half Friday. Smith carried the ball just four times, but for 144 yards and three touchdowns. Alvis completed nine of 10 passes for 102 yards, finding three different receivers — Curet, Walden and Comer — for touchdowns. He also had an interception on defense.
"It's nice to have that double-threat type of offense, where we can run it with Mario or hit me or Jordan on the routes," Curet said. "If Nate keeps hitting his targets, we'll be an unstoppable offense. I've got to give the credit for our run game to our linemen. They've been working hard the last four games."
The Mustangs scored touchdowns on their first six first-half possessions, racking up a 41-0 lead. Then the defense got in on the scoring, when Justin Smith blocked a punt that fellow junior Oscar Reyes recovered in the end zone with 3:05 left before halftime.
La Quinta (1-3) mostly ran its quarterback, junior Don Tran, who racked up 58 first-half rushing yards. But Tran appeared shaken up after fumbling the ball midway through the second quarter — Mesa sophomore Oronde Crenshaw recovered — and didn't return. The Aztecs also lost their backup quarterback, sophomore Dan Le, to a right leg injury in the second half.
Grant said his assistant coaches have assumed more responsibility for the defense, which earned the Mustangs' first shutout since beating Calvary Chapel, 8-0, in 2007.
"They're doing it by committee and they're doing a great job," said Grant, the defensive coordinator last year. "They did a great job this week, so I'll let it roll. I've been really fortunate; I've got a great group of kids and a great group of coaches."
The game had a running clock in the second half. The Mustangs didn't stop running the ball.
Justin Smith, Mario's younger brother, had a one-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Then senior Walter Garcia, lined up at fullback, ripped off a 71-yard touchdown run up the middle early in the fourth quarter to cap the scoring.
The Mustangs got the ball back when senior Jesus Macedonic recovered a fumble at the La Quinta eight-yard line. They were content to let backup quarterback Kurt Williams run forward three straight times for minimal yardage, before taking a knee on fourth down.
Mesa didn't need to set the all-time school points record. It was on its way into its bye week with plenty of momentum, and optimism for the Orange Coast League season that begins at Jim Scott Stadium on Oct. 14 against Godinez.
"We're just going to work hard," Mario Smith said. "It's not a rest for us next week. We've got to come hard because [league] is a new season."
Costa Mesa 61, La Quinta 0
SCORE BY QUARTERS
La Quinta 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 — 0
Costa Mesa 27 – 21 – 6 – 7 — 61
CM – M. Smith 56 run (Lux kick), 9:21.
CM – M. Smith 34 run (kick failed), 8:22.
CM – Curet 6 pass from Alvis (Lux kick), 5:59.
CM – Walden 3 pass from Alvis (Lux kick), 3:47.
CM – M. Smith 55 run (Lux kick), 8:01.
CM – Comer 11 pass from Alvis (Lux kick), 4:51.
CM – Reyes recovers blocked punt in end zone (Lux kick), 3:05.
CM – J. Smith 1 run (kick failed), 5:30.
CM – Garcia 71 run (Lux kick), 10:45.
CM – M. Smith, 4-144, 3 TDs.
LQ – D. Tran, 13-58.
CM – Alvis, 9-10-0, 102, 3 TDs.
LQ – D. Tran, 4-10-1, 16.
CM – Curet, 5-55, 1 TD.
LQ – D. Nguyen, 2-15.