Santa Ana High School was in no mood for another surprise Friday night at Santa Ana Stadium, when it met Mater Dei in the "Mayor's Bowl" for the unofficial city football championship.
And that determination carried the Saints to a 31-20 victory, in a tough nonleague game that left both schools with 2-1 records.
The Saints had been surprised by Saddleback last week, 25-6, and from all appearances, they turned that negative into a positive against Mater Dei.
"I don't know what Saddleback did to them," said Chuck Gallo, Mater Dei coach, "but they played like they were angry tonight."
Indeed, the defending CIF Southern Conference champions asserted themselves on both sides of the line, scoring four touchdowns and a field goal and effectively containing Mater Dei's vaunted passing game.
Richard Fanti, Santa Ana quarterback, echoed Gallo's thoughts on the Saints' determined performance Friday night.
"The Saddleback game proved that, just because you're a top-ranked team doesn't mean that another team can't beat you," Fanti said. "I think we got big-headed and it showed on the field against Saddleback. We weren't really practicing hard lately.
"But we practiced a lot harder this week, you know. Usually, you're not feeling sore after practices, but this week we were."
Fanti led a Santa Ana charge that amassed 405 yards offense, 365 on the ground.
Mater Dei's defense worked to clog up the middle, so Santa Ana hit the corners and it paid off all night. Mater Dei did a reasonably good job of containing Santa Ana tailback Robert Lee, who had 74 yards in 19 carries, but it let Fanti get loose in the process.
Fanti scored on touchdown runs of 11 and 65 yards, the latter with only 2:12 to play in the game and Santa Ana nursing a 24-20 lead.
After Mater Dei's last touchdown, Santa Ana took over on its own 35-yard line. On the first play, Fanti turned the corner on an option play and raced 65 yards to score.
That play took the edge off Mater Dei's comeback attempt, one that saw the Monarchs rally from a 17-0 deficit in the second period.
Mater Dei cut it 17-7 going into halftime on a 15-yard pass from Mike Curtius to Matt Spence and later in the third quarter moved to within 17-14 on Pat Leborio's 3-yard run.
Santa Ana responded to that by marching 61 yards in 8 plays, scoring on a 14-yard run by Lee. The key play in that drive was a 21-yard pass from Fanti to Lee on fourth down at Mater Dei's 34 yard line.
"We're not really a passing team," Fanti said, "but it's there when we need it."