Pacifica High School football Coach Bill Craven had mentioned to his team the possibility of recording its second straight shutout in the second game of the Empire League schedule Friday.
On the one hand, the idea seemed far-fetched because the Mariners' opponent, Loara, is not a team to be underestimated. On the other hand, a defense like the Pacifica's has a right to dream of vacant scoreboards.
For most of the first half of Friday's game in Bolsa Grande Stadium, a shutout seemed to be impending. The only question was: which team would be the victim?
The situation required a vigorous halftime lecture by Craven to jump-start the Mariner offense and allow Pacifica (2-0, 3-2) to take a 17-0 victory.
"A shutout is something we shoot for all the time," Craven said.
The last time the Mariners had two straight league shutouts was in 1981.
Last week, Pacifica beat Katella, 35-0, for its biggest margin of victory in five years in the Empire League. But this week, offense was much harder to come by, at least the sort of offense that produces points.
Pacifica dominated the statistics in the first half without completing a pass, gaining 169 yards to Loara's 60. But when push came to shove, as it tended to do near the end zone, Loara (0-2, 3-2) choked off the Mariners' progress with two impressive goal-line stands.
During the Mariners' first possession, running back Callen Chase crashed through a big hole in the middle of the line and ran 62 yards before safety Wade Clester tackled him at the Loara 6-yard line.
But a clutch performance by the Saxon defense, particularly Chris Wright and Kevin Hampton, halted the Mariners at the 2-yard line, where running back Tony Caceda fumbled a pitch from quarterback Scott Pettit on fourth-and-goal to sink the opportunity.
When asked to describe the Loara defense, Chase replied, "Sweat and dirt."
History virtually repeated in the second quarter when Pacifica moved 58 yards on the rushing of Chase, Caceda and Bill Hardesty, only to stall at the 1-yard line.
On fourth down with 18 seconds left in the half, Craven finally settled for an 18-yard field goal by Keith Greene. That gave the Mariners a measly 3-0 halftime lead to show for their efforts.
"I was real upset," Craven said. "Twice we were down there so close we could smell it, and we end up with three points. I told them to show a little character."
Said Chase: "He was kind of disappointed. If you get it down to the 1-yard line, the offense should at least put it in. Our adrenaline was kind of shabby in the first half. We needed time to push each other."
The Pacifica defense gave its slow-starting offense that time by sacking Clester, the Loara quarterback, eight times. The Saxons had no luck in running against the Mariners' strong line.
The league's leading rusher, Chris Wright, gained just 39 yards on 13 carries, and Clester's limited passing provided no respite. He completed 2 of 9 passes for 24 yards, while giving up two interceptions to raise his season total to nine.
Chase, who had his biggest game of the season with 16 carries for 169 yards, ran 39 yards to score the Mariners' first touchdown with 1:21 left in the third quarter. Three minutes later, Pacifica put the game out of reach after Clester got a bad snap from center and was forced to rush a punt.
The Mariners took over on the Saxon 35-yard line, and Pettit completed a 29-yard pass to Willie Taylor, followed by a 4-yard scoring pass to Dan Blake.