The speedy tailbacks have graduated and the execution on the offensive line was a little shaky, but it appears Saddleback High School has another good football team.
Saddleback gained 216 yards rushing and quarterback Sean Therien teamed up with receiver Neil Carter for two touchdowns Thursday night as the Roadrunners breezed to a 22-0 victory over Santa Ana Valley in front of 2,500 fans in Santa Ana Stadium.
The Roadrunners lived up to their nickname last season with sprinters Nate Primous and Danny Ontiveros. The running game is now manned by a trio of backs--Jose De Santiago, Juan Valle and Hymie Thurmond--and although they won't win many track meets, they know how to gain yardage.
De Santiago led all rushers with 82 yards in 10 carries. Thurmond had 69 yards in 10 carries, including the longest run of the night, a 41-yard gain in the fourth quarter that set up Carlos Zavala's 19-yard field goal.
Valle scored the Roadrunners' second touchdown on a three-yard run and finished with 24 yards in five carries. Saddleback used six backs in the one-sided game, and afterward Coach Jerry Witte said he liked what he saw.
"For an opening game, I'd give us a six on a scale of one to 10," he said. "Our backs did well and we got a lot of them in the game. We obviously don't have the speed we did last year, but we're quick.
"We had some breakdowns on the offensive line, but for the most part, they gave Therien some good protection. We're hoping to throw more this season."
Therien started slowly in a scoreless first quarter, but the senior completed 8 of 15 pass attempts for 103 yards. Carter doubles as Therien's backup and started three games last year when Therien suffered a broken collarbone.
The two combined on two nearly identical pass plays that covered 20 yards for touchdowns. Both were timing patterns in which Therien executed with little trouble.
"Neil is a good athlete who played mostly defense last year and we wanted to get him involved more in the offense," Witte said. "He knows the offense, being Sean's backup, and they work together all the time."
Witte admitted that he purposely showed very little of his triple I-formation offense with most of the Sea View League's opposing coaches sitting in the stands.
"We didn't run the real offense, that's a week away," he said. "We basically wanted to get a lot of new kids in the game and give them some experience."
There were even a few bright spots for Santa Ana Valley, a team that has struggled to a 3-17 record in the past two years. The Falcons played good defense, quarterback Steve Calhoun displayed a strong arm and receiver/returner Roshawn Lacy displayed some athletic talent running with the football.
Still, the Falcons were held to minus-two yards rushing and were forced to call a timeout before the first play of the game because their defense appeared to be confused.