COSTA MESA — At one point in the first half Thursday night, Costa Mesa High football coach Wally Grant said he ran the same running play 18 times in a row.
No, Grant was not playing the Madden video game. He was coaching the Mustangs against a tough opponent in Los Amigos.
But when you have two talented running backs and a tough offensive line, that strategy can be successful.
Costa Mesa used big nights from junior Oronde Crenshaw and senior Justin Smith to secure a big 40-14 nonleague victory over the Lobos at Orange Coast College.
Grant called it a statement game for the Mustangs' program. That made sense after Mesa beat a Los Amigos team that not only was ranked No. 9 in the CIF Southern Section Southern Division poll, but also the team that eliminated Mesa, 38-7, last year in the first round of the playoffs.
"This was circled on the calendar, and the kids went out and got it," Grant said.
It was an upset victory. Grant could not be upset with how the Mustangs (2-2) ran the ball, totaling 291 yards.
Crenshaw, who typically plays fullback, carried it 24 times for a career-high 174 yards and two touchdowns. Smith ran it 22 times for 73 yards, and also had pair of scores.
Crenshaw was quick to credit his linemen, including Oscar Reyes, Jose Villalpondo, Joseph Quiroz, Marco Zalpa, Alan Obregon and Anthony McCormick. Reyes, a senior left guard, made his season debut for the Mustangs after breaking his ankle prior to the season opener.
"Coach gave me an opportunity to run the ball, and I literally did that," said Crenshaw, who also recovered two fumbles on defense. "I ran with the opportunity he gave me. It was really great to have those linemen blocking in front of me ... They were literally demolishing everybody in front of me. They made two guys quit. You can't ask for a better team than that."
The Mustangs started slowly as Los Amigos jumped out to a 14-0 lead. The Lobos scored on their first two possessions, the second touchdown coming when junior quarterback Anthony Magana found senior receiver Noe Perez on a 22-yard play-action pass with 6:01 remaining in the first quarter.
The Lobos (1-2) would not score again.
Costa Mesa went on a 13-play drive midway through the second quarter, capped when Smith found the end zone from two yards out. He also scored on a conversion run, knotting the score at 14-14 with 4:42 remaining until halftime.
After Crenshaw recovered his first fumble at the Los Amigos 29-yard-line, the Mustangs struck quickly.
Costa Mesa then used a highlight-reel, end-zone catch from junior receiver Quinten Bell, who appeared to leap over the back of the defensive back to haul in the pass from senior quarterback Noah JeyaRajah.
The play gave the Mustangs a 20-14 halftime lead.
Mesa was not done in the second half. Crenshaw added his own highlight-reel play, following the blocking to the left for a 34-yard touchdown run that gave Mesa a 26-14 advantage.
Markiece Traylor also made sure his one catch counted.
The senior receiver scored on a 39-yard pass play midway through the fourth quarter, avoiding a tackle before reaching out to just stretch the ball into the end zone.
"[Bell and Traylor] are going to get their touches," Grant said. "And when they do, they both can be very electrifying."
The Mustangs' ground game can be the same way.
"It's just doing what we're supposed to do," Reyes said of the linemen. "We've just got to stay low and drive, do what we're taught, and stay disciplined ... [My ankle] feels good again. I don't feel any pain. I feel like I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing for my team again.
"I wish we could have done this last year and gone farther [in the playoffs]. But this year, I know we'll go far. Beating [Los Amigos] means a lot."
Costa Mesa 40, Los Amigos 14
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Los Amigos 14 – 0 – 0 – 0 — 14
Costa Mesa 6 – 14 – 6 – 14 — 40
LA – Saldivar 3 run (Hernandez kick), 7:35.
LA – Perez 22 pass from Magana (Hernandez kick), 6:01.
CM – Crenshaw 3 run (kick blocked), 2:16.
CM – Smith 2 run (Smith run), 4:42.
CM – Bell 18 pass from JeyaRajah (kick failed), 1:07.
CM – Crenshaw 34 run (run failed), 8:20.
CM – Traylor 39 pass from JeyaRajah (Lux kick), 5:14.
CM – Smith 2 run (Lux kick), 4:15.
LA – Saldivar, 25-144, 1 TD.
CM – Crenshaw, 24-173, 2 TDs; Smith, 22-73, 2 TDs.
LA – Magana, 5-11-1, 77, 1 TD.
CM – JeyaRajah, 2-4-0, 57, 2 TDs.
LA – Perez, 3-65, 1 TD.
CM – Traylor, 1-39, 1 TD; Bell, 1-18, 1 TD.