De La Salle football coach Bob Ladouceur will assuredly take his sixth team in six years to the CIF State Bowl Championships next week.
That's an impressive feat.
But what Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.)
coach Harry Welch might pull off. ... remarkable.
As he put it after his Eagles defeated
27-13 for the Southern Section Pac-5 championship at Angel Stadium: "Wow," he told Steve Fryer of the Orange County Register. "That was just. … wow."
He, of course, was talking about his team's win. It gave Santa Margarita its first Southern Section crown since 1997, when Carson Palmer quarterbacked the team.
But this was Welch's ninth CIF crown with a third different team – five with Canyon Country and three with St. Margaret's.
And if Santa Margarita is selected as the Southern California Division I representative for next week's State Bow Championships, it will be the third school he's led to the promised land.
He won the previous two games, including a win for Canyon over the above-mentioned De La Salle in the 2006 game. The other was with St. Margaret's in 2008, the most lopsided game in state-bowl history.
Now that deserves a "wow."
The 10 participants of next week's games will be announced Sunday afternoon at the Home Depot Center in Carson.
Even if the Eagles aren't picked, Welch said that he's proud.
"I'm very happy to share this with the community," he told the Los Angeles Times. "I'm so proud to be an Eagle. I've never been more proud than I am right now."
He must have been proud of junior quarterback Johnny Stanton
and junior running back Ryan Wolpin
, who led the Eagles offensively.
Stanton was efficient passing, completing 9 of 14 for 92 yards and a touchdown. He was better as a runner, rushing for 153 yard and another score.
Wolpin rushed for 89 yards and two touchdowns and receiver River Cracraft
, yet another junior, had seven catches for 71 yards and another touchdown.
Wolpin clinched the win, scoring his 28th touchdown of the year on a 3-yard touchdown with 3:09 to play, giving Santa Margarita (12-2) a 27-13 lead.
It finished off a beautiful 11-play, 89-yard drive that chewed up more than 10 minutes.
San Clemente, making only its second section-final appearance, and first since 1979, drove right down the field after Wolpin's touchdown, but Cracraft intercepted a Travis Wilson pass near the goal line.
Santa Margarita ran out the clock from there.
San Clemente opened the scoring on a 40-yard field goal by Bret Miller
, but as it did all night, Santa Margarita had an answer.
This was a 33-yard touchdown run by Wolpin with 34 seconds left in the first quarter to go up 7-3.
Miller connected again, this time from 30-yards out, to close to 7-6 with 8:33 left in the second quarter. The Tritons then took their first lead, 13-7, on a 3-yard TD run by Mike Elespuru
, capping a 62-yard drive.
But Santa Margarita took back the lead for good, 14-13, right before the half as Stanton fired an 8-yard TD pass to Cracraft with 11 seconds remaining.
Santa Margarita took control on a 2-yard touchdown run by Stanton capping an 80-yard drive to start the second half.
The score remained 21-13 until Santa Margarita's massive drive that started late in the third quarter and ended late in the fourth.
Santa Margarita will be in tough three-way discussion likely with Central Section champion Bakersfield
(13-0) and Vista Murrieta
Bakersfield was an impressive 38-3 winner over Bullard in its section title game and Vista Murrieta was equally so in a 35-28 win over Centennial-Corona in a Southern Section Inland Division title game.
Though Vista Murrieta's record doesn't look good, it is actually undefeated (14-0) on the field but forfeited the five games for using an ineligible player. Vista Murrieta disclosed the error thus there was no penalty imposed on the team.
It will be interested to see how the commissioner's interpret those forfeit losses.
Bakersfield is trying to become the first Central Section team selected to the bowl games.
Winning the Pac-5 title carries extreme weight even though Santa Margarita didn't even win its league, the renowned Trinity League.