When cornerback George Tuioti was named Santa Ana's starting quarterback this season, Coach Dick Hill was making the best of a bad situation. Last season's starter, senior Richard Fanti, was ruled ineligible because of low grades, and the team was forced--at least for nonleague games--to find a quick replacement.
Thursday night against Mater Dei, Tuioti continued to make the best of his situation.
In front of a crowd of 4,500 at Santa Ana Stadium, the Saints defeated Mater Dei, 24-3, and Tuioti was responsible for all of his team's points, rushing for two touchdowns, passing for another, and running back an interception for yet another.
"He's a fine football player," said Hill, a master of understatement.
Of course, Hill isn't pleased with Tuioti's rookie mistakes. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound senior threw three interceptions and overthrew a number of open receivers downfield. But he passed for 135 yards, completing 6 of 17 passes, including a 60-yard bomb to Royal Wilbon, as the Saints rolled over previously unbeaten Mater Dei. Santa Ana improved its nonleague record to 2-1.
"We'd like him to get a few more to the open receivers," Hill said. "He's just got to mature and we're willing to let him."
Tuioti played almost the entire game, making a number of key defensive plays as well, including his third-quarter interception of Mater Dei quarterback Mark Ramstack's pass, which he ran back 25 yards for the Saints' third touchdown. He also punted three times for 38, 50 and 40 yards, and rushed eight times for 31 yards.
Of course, Tuioti also spent a good part of the game handing off to his best friend, the Saints' prolific running back, Robert Lee, who carried 17 times for 121 yards.
Hill said he was concerned with Tuioti's fatigue.
"We've got to get him in shape," Hill said.
"Yeah, I'm tired by the fourth quarter. I'm exhausted from smiling so much," Tuioti said.
While Tuioti was enjoying himself, the other quarterback on the field was having a tough evening. Though Ramstack completed 14 of 29 pass attempts for 187 yards, he was hurried all night and was forced to throw deep. The lack of protection led to four critical interceptions and five sacks for a total loss of 34 yards.
"They outplayed our offensive line," Mater Dei Coach Chuck Gallo said. "That decided the game."
Senior defensive back Rob Fanti picked off three Ramstack passes for Santa Ana. For Mater Dei, Jason Gasper had two interceptions. Keith Labus was the Monarchs' leading receiver, with six receptions for 81 yards.