NEWPORT COAST — On Friday night, the Sage Hill School football team played what Coach J.R. Tolver called perhaps its best opponent in his four-year tenure with the Lightning.
During the game against Mission Prep of San Luis Obispo, Tolver got perhaps the most outwardly upset he has been during that tenure.
The Lightning, missing their top two quarterbacks, were shut out by the Royals, 52-0. It was their most lopsided loss since losing to rival St. Margaret's, 70-0, in 2009.
But Tolver had more of an issue with the way things transpired in the second quarter of the nonleague game at Sage Hill.
Mission Prep (4-0), the No. 2-ranked team in the CIF Southern Section Northeast Division, continued passing the ball in the second quarter as it piled on the points. Tolver appeared to begin shouting across the field to the Royals coaching staff after senior quarterback Tyler Baty completed his fourth touchdown pass of the night, to Evan Talbert with 3:47 left before halftime.
That made the score 44-0, Mission Prep. At halftime Tolver had to be restrained by a couple of his assistant coaches, again very upset as he waited for the Mission Prep coaching staff to walk off the field.
"As a coach, I'm going to do everything I can to make sure the opponent that I'm playing walks off the field with their dignity," Tolver said after the game. "I felt like, 35-0 in the second quarter and we hadn't even gotten a first down at that point, there's no reason to drop back and throw a pass. There's no reason. Run the ball, make us tackle you. If we don't tackle you, that's great.
"There's no reason to drop back and throw the ball. I felt like it's just rubbing salt in an open wound. It's uncalled for. These kids are 14, 15, 16, 17 years old. They're not getting paid to play. They're not on scholarship. They're out here for character development and for good memories in their future. As a coach, you have to keep it in mind ... and that was my issue. If I didn't say anything, I don't know if they would have came out in the second half and still threw the ball. It has nothing to do with the score. It has everything to do with the fact that I love my kids and it was my job, as the leader and the head of this team, to protect them. That was what my intention was, to protect my kids from being humiliated in a situation that they didn't have to be humiliated in."
Mission Prep did remove Baty from the game after halftime, and did not attempt a pass. After the contest, a Mission Prep assistant coach told Tolver that the plays in question took place in the first half, and that the Mission Prep players needed to just play the game at that point.
Tolver, who is also the boys' athletic director at Sage Hill, clearly did not buy that.
"I'm going to pick integrity and sportsmanship over making sure my kid gets one or two extra reps," Tolver said. "In the grand scheme of things, it's not that important. The most important thing is to make sure that when you're approached with a situation, you respond in the right way. I could be wrong. I could be being sensitive, I could be being emotional. I could be the father cub looking over his baby cubs. I acknowledge that, but at the same time, I felt like in that position I would have done things different."
Sage Hill (0-4) had a hard time doing anything offensively, totaling just 28 yards from scrimmage. That included a 21-yard run by senior Thomas Fenner.
The Lightning played without senior quarterback Harrison Ray. Tolver said he thought Ray would be able to play, but that he has an AC joint injury in his shoulder. Tolver said Ray, who was cast into the starting quarterback position after sophomore CJ McCord broke his arm in the second game of the season, will likely miss next week's game at The Bishop's as well.
The Lightning ran option with Fenner for much of the game, and also used sophomore Gordon Strelow at quarterback. Sage Hill attempted just one pass.
Fenner finished with 51 yards rushing on 13 carries.
After the game, Tolver delivered an equally passionate speech to his team.
"I just want my kids to know that we'll always do things the right way, whether we're winning big, we're losing big or we're in a game until the very end," Tolver said.
NonleagueMission Prep 52, Sage Hill 0SCORE BY QUARTERSMission Prep 30 – 22 – 0 – 0 — 52Sage Hill 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 — 0FIRST QUARTERMP – Laird 40 pass from Baty (kick failed), 10:14.MP – Fernandez 25 pass from Baty (Laird run), 5:31.MP – Cardwell 25 run (Laird run), 1:36.MP – Cardwell 5 run (Laird pass from Baty), 0:10.SECOND QUARTERMP – Hall 38 pass from Baty (Laird run), 3:53.MP – Talbert 12 pass from Baty (run failed), 3:47.MP – Laird 20 run (Laird run), 0:39.INDIVIDUAL RUSHINGMP – Cardwell, 12-99, 2 TDs.SH – Fenner, 13-51.INDIVIDUAL PASSINGMP – Baty, 9-12-0, 169, 4 TDs.SH – Masarik, 0-1-0, 0.INDIVIDUAL RECEIVINGMP – Laird, 3-67, 1 TD.SH – none.