High Schools: Key to Bell football triumph: Luck

Coach Mike Bargas wasn't kidding when he said his Estancia High football team got lucky in the Battle for the Bell.

He was on the sideline with a cane, coaching on a bum ankle. I covered the Eagles' rivalry game against Costa Mesa Friday night from the press box and the Eagles shouldn't have won.

The Mustangs controlled much of the game and the line of scrimmage, where the game is usually won. Take two plays away from the Eagles and they probably don't score.

Those two plays led to Estancia touchdowns.

The first was a 58-yard pass on the game's opening drive, setting up the Eagles on the two-yard line. The second was a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown 31/2 minutes into the second half.

Those two plays weren't even enough for the Eagles to pull out a 15-13 victory in the Orange Coast League opener at Jim Scott Stadium. Tied at 13-13, the defending league champions actually went for two points, instead of one after Ben Beck's kickoff return for a score.

If the two-point try had failed, the game is even and it most likely ends in a tie. In the previous 45 contests between these schools, they'd only tied once.

The 46th edition barely went to Estancia.

"We're just lucky we won the football game because it could've gone the other way," Bargas said.

"Costa Mesa had a great game plan.

"It looked like old-school Tustin," said Bargas, referring to the run-oriented Tillers.

Wally Grant, the head coach at Costa Mesa, was an assistant at Tustin for many years under Coach Myron Miller.

Tustin has played for the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division title three times since 2008, winning it last year. Of the Mustangs' 60 plays, 57 were runs. Quarterback Noah JeyaRajah just kept tossing the ball to running backs Justin Smith and Oronde Crenshaw. Thirty times to Smith for 143 yards and 20 times to Crenshaw for 162 yards and two touchdowns.

Compare Costa Mesa's 316 yards rushing to Estancia's 81, and you'll quickly know which team was in charge.

"It didn't matter if we controlled [the game] or not," Grant said. "We lost on the scoreboard and that's what counts."

The Eagles improved their record in the rivalry 27-18-1. They're also undefeated in their last 12 league games, an impressive streak considering it is the longest in Newport-Mesa.

Estancia senior tailback Robert Murtha is two touchdowns shy of breaking the Newport-Mesa career record of 49.

Murtha is trying to surpass the mark set by Costa Mesa's Keola Asuega from 2000-02.

In the CIF Southern Section girls' volleyball polls, Sage Hill is No. 1 in Division 3-A, CdM is No. 5 in Division 1-AA and Newport Harbor is No. 6 in Division 1-AA.

The CdM and Sage Hill cross country programs have both their boys' and girls' teams ranked in Southern Section polls.

The CdM girls are No. 6 in Division 3 and its boys are No. 11 in Division 3.

Sage Hill's boys are No. 7 in Division 5 and its girls are No. 10 in Division 5.


Twitter: @DCPenaloza

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