Santa Clara and Oxnard highs finally found out what it's like to compete without their star players. How they responded might have determined the outcome of their respective leagues.
In the same week, Ventura County's leading passer (Tim Gutierrez of Santa Clara), leading rusher (Johnel Turner of Oxnard) and leading scorer (Bryant Taylor of Oxnard) suffered injuries that either knocked them out of the game or hampered their performances.
Santa Clara managed to beat Santa Paula, 16-10, in a Frontier League showdown for first place. But Oxnard tied Dos Pueblos, 13-13, and needs a victory over Santa Barbara on Friday to have a chance to win the Channel League title.
"We went ahead, 13-0, and we looked like we were going to blow them off the field," Oxnard Coach Jack Davis said. "Then Taylor and Turner got hurt and the rest of the team took the night off."
Taylor twisted his right ankle on the first series. Turner, who has rushed for 1,037 yards in 105 carries, bruised his shoulder in the first quarter and had problems passing the ball.
Dos Pueblos showed little sympathy for Oxnard (6-1-1 overall, 4-0-1 in league play) and used a 10-man defensive front. The Chargers held the Yellowjackets to a season-low 301 yards in total offense and came within a missed extra-point attempt of winning the game in the third quarter.
Davis expects Taylor and Turner back in the lineup against Santa Barbara--healthy or not.
"This is the time of year you've got to play hurt," Davis said. "We'll see how badly this team wants to win the championship."
Title stand: Kasha Clemons, Kwinn Knight and Santa Clara's defense proved how much they want the Frontier League championship.
The defense prevented Santa Paula (6-2, 2-1) from scoring 4 times inside the 20-yard line and Clemons and Knight each made touchdown-saving tackles inside the 10 late in the second half.
Clemons also ran Santa Clara's offense after Gutierrez injured his shoulder on the 10th play of the game. Knight picked up the offensive slack, rushing 25 times for 109 yards and 2 touchdowns.
John Weich also intercepted 2 passes, including one that set up his 40-yard field goal.
"Kasha and Kwinn are great leaders," said Santa Clara Coach Steve Dann, whose team improved to 8-0, 3-0. "It would have been easy for the team to quit after Timmy left. But the defense just played its best game of the year."
Shaky performance: Coach Rick Scott said it was more than a bad snap that cost Buena (6-2, 3-2) a come-from behind victory over Santa Barbara (8-0, 5-0), although that play was the most memorable.
With the ball on Buena's 34-yard line, the ball was snapped over the head of punter Tom Lunsford. Santa Barbara recovered at the 14-yard line and running back Geraldo Gil scored 2 plays later to ensure the Dons' 24-17 win.
Scott, however, refused to blame his long-snapper for the loss.
"Sure, the snap was high," Scott said, "but two guys also didn't block. It was a crucial play, but we had other mistakes. We had two kickoffs fielded in the 20. One, our return man stepped out of bounds and the other he just fell down. We also had a controversial safety when our quarterback was called for intentional grounding in our own end zone.
"But we can't blame the snap or the referees' call for losing. It was a big game and we didn't perform."
Punter wanted: Hueneme (4-4, 2-3) had 7 players injured, including the Vikings' best wide receiver, starting quarterback and fullback, in a 21-10 victory over San Marcos. But the biggest loss was felt in the punting department.
"We started the season with three punters and felt pretty secure that was going to be enough," Hueneme Coach George Machado said. "But we lost all three punters in that game. Our final backup is Melvin Nunnery, but he's our long-snapper. He would have had to hike the ball, catch it and then punt the thing."
Receiver Carlos Cardenas, who left the game because of a pinched nerve neck, returned to make the first punt of his career--a 31-yard effort.
Looking for No.3: Mike Esparza of Newbury Park is the two-time defending champion, but Mike Williamson of Thousand Oaks will be favored to win the Marmonte League cross-country finals at Moorpark College on Friday. Camarillo, the No. 1-ranked team in the state Division I and Southern Section 4-A Division polls, is expected to defend its team title.
Esparza, the fourth-place finisher in last year's 4-A championships, missed the Mt. San Antonio College Invitational and last week's Ventura County championships because of a lower-back injury.
Williamson upset Agoura's Bryan Dameworth at Mt. SAC and finished second to the defending state Division I champion at the Ventura County championships at Moorpark last week.
Eyes on the Potato Bowl: Moorpark College plays at Glendale on Saturday in a game that will go a long way toward determining the Western State Conference Northern Division champion.