This has been a season of high expectations and major disappointments for Westminster High School's football team. Ranked No. 1 in Orange County and 17th nationally before the season began, the Lions could only finish a distant third in the six-team Sunset League and just one game above .500.
Still, that was good enough to earn the team a berth in the Southern Conference Big Five playoffs, something that was assured when the Lions bombed Ocean View, 43-10, Friday night at Huntington Beach High's Sheue Field.
"It's nice going into the playoffs with momentum," Coach John O'Hara said after his team had put a damper on the Seahawks' homecoming. "It's kind of like where we were last year at this time."
That thought alone is enough to make O'Hara forget some of the bad breaks that have befallen the Lions (3-2, 5-4-1).
"I don't think we were up and down this year," O'Hara said. "We were only seven points away from an undefeated league season. We've had our share of injuries and bad luck this year. This was probably the first game we've been healthy."
Fullback Jim Rubalcava scored three touchdowns on runs of one, three and eight yards and also made a key contribution from his defensive end position as the Lions looked like the powerhouse they were supposed to be.
Dean Eddy got Westminster off to a quick start when he returned a punt 52 yards for a touchdown early in the first quarter. The Lions also intercepted three Victor Gutierrez passes, including one returned 35 yards for a touchdown by Mark Smith.
Ocean View (0-5, 2-7) played the Lions on even terms in the first half, even with team leader Kurt Szuba watching from the sidelines with a leg injury. Gutierrez, substituting for the injured Mike Spence for the second week in a row, had the partisan crowd thinking upset when he turned a broken play into a 72-yard touchdown run in the opening quarter that gave the Seahawks a brief 7-6 lead. Ocean View trailed, 15-10, at halftime but Westminster's superior size advantage wore down the Seahawks in the second half.