Battle for the Bell: Eagles grab Bell

COSTA MESA — It seems everyone on the Estancia High team is limping. The coach, the tailback and the fullback went into the Battle for the Bell with ankle injuries.

Mike Bargas brought out his cane, just to move up and down the sideline. The other week, someone told him he looked more like pimp than a coach.

The decision Bargas made 3 1/2 minutes into the third quarter against Costa Mesa on Friday was a risky one by the man in charge.

Ben Beck had just returned the kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. With the game tied, and the Eagles going for an extra-point kick to go ahead, Costa Mesa jumped offside.

"I had a chance to think about it," said Bargas, believing two points were worth more than one. "We [went for] it."

The Eagles sure did and they converted the two-point conversion run. Those two points proved to be the difference in Estancia defeating the Mustangs, 15-13, in the 46th edition of the rivalry football game.

The player who ran in the two-point play was Robert Murtha. That was the only time he found the end zone in the Orange Coast League opener.

On a night Murtha was on the verge of breaking the Newport-Mesa record for career touchdowns, the senior wasn't taking down another mark held by a Costa Mesa running back. The back that took down the Newport-Mesa career rushing record last week was shut down and stuck with 48 career touchdowns, one behind the record.

The Mustangs (2-4, 0-1 in league) held Murtha to a season-low 52 yards on 16 carries. Murtha hurt his ankle twice in the fourth quarter. The final time on fourth down, after his six-yard run came up a yard short of the first-down marker with 2:27 left to play.

The Eagles (4-2, 1-0), ranked No. 8 in the CIF Southern Section Southern Division, wouldn't have to hand the ball off to Murtha again. The defending league champions were on the way to their 12th straight league victory dating back to 2009.

Costa Mesa, down just two, fell apart after it took over on downs on its 37. After a five-yard run on first down by Oronde Crenshaw, who Estancia struggled containing all night as he finished with 162 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, they couldn't move the ball on the ground.

The problem for the Mustangs was that they couldn't get Crenshaw or running back Justin Smith, who rushed 30 times for 143 yards, the ball. The quarterback fumbled the snap on back-to-back plays, leaving the offense in a fourth-and-seven situation with 68 seconds remaining.

The play asked for a pass, and Costa Mesa's Noah JeyaRajah completed his first pass. But it was two yards short of moving the chains. The Mustangs turned the ball over on downs and lost the rivalry game for the third straight year.

"This loss is a tough pill to swallow," said Costa Mesa Coach Wally Grant, whose team outgained Estancia, 316-81, on the ground, and knocked out Estancia's quarterback right before halftime.

Bargas said Brad Wilson left with a groin injury. The team's best passing threat was gone.

Wilson was the player who helped the Eagles strike first and fool the defense to set up the touchdown on the game's opening drive.

On third-and-one, most teams expect Estancia to pound the ball with Murtha. The offense decided to switch it up and it turned out to be the right call.

Wilson rolled to his right and found tight end Matt Jarmacz all alone. The two hooked up on a 58-yard pass play, almost a touchdown until defensive back Markiece Traylor pushed Jarmacz out of bounds on the two.

The offense moved a yard closer after an offside penalty on the Mustangs, their fourth penalty in the first half. From one yard out, Wilson snuck into the end zone to put the Eagles ahead.

Estancia looked in business to score again almost three minutes later. Defensive back Edwin Medero intercepted a pass near the Costa Mesa sideline and returned it 46 yards, setting up the Eagles on the opponent's 28.

A false start and a three-yard loss left Estancia in a second-and-long situation. After two straight incomplete passes, Wilson punted. He pinned the Mustangs on their four with a 32-yard punt.

The Mustangs got out of trouble by running. They went to the ground, using Smith and Crenshaw during a 16-play, 96-yard drive.

Smith moved the ball in small doses and Crenshaw in big ones. Half of Crenshaw's six carries went for 10 or more yards, the longest was a 22-yarder that placed Costa Mesa near the red zone.

After handing the ball off to Smith four straight times, the Mustangs gave it to Crenshaw. He went right, patiently waiting to find a crease, and once the junior did, he burst into the end zone on a 14-yard run to tie the game.

Crenshaw's second touchdown came early in the third quarter, giving the Mustangs their first lead. But the missed extra-point kick only gave Costa Mesa a 13-7 lead.

On the ensuing kickoff, Beck burned the Mustangs. He returned a kickoff for a touchdown for the second straight week. And when Bargas decided to go for two, instead of kicking the extra point, Estancia took the lead for good.

The gimpy coach could celebrate, raising his cane in victory.

Twitter: @DCPenaloza


Orange Coast League

Estancia 15, Costa Mesa 13


Costa Mesa 0 – 7 – 6 – 0 – 13

Estancia 7 – 0 – 8 – 0 – 15


Est – Wilson 1 run (Cabrera kick), 10:08.


CM – Crenshaw 14 run (Lux kick), 10:39.


CM – Crenshaw 8 run (kick failed), 8:40.

Est – Beck 99 kickoff return (Murtha run), 8:27.


CM – Crenshaw, 20-162, 2 TDs.

Est – Murtha, 16-52.


CM – JeyaRajah, 1-3-1, 5.

Est – Wilson, 3-7-0, 74.


CM – Villalpondo, 1-5.

Est – Jarmacz, 1-58.

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