SANTA ANA — A funny thing happened to Villa Park High School on the way to a 21-14 victory over Santa Ana Thursday in Santa Ana Stadium.
Villa Park didn't fumble, bumble and stumble the way it had in the past three games. The Spartans turned the ball over just once, forged a steady running game, passed effectively and put up a solid defense.
The Spartans also faced Santa Ana, which was playing without leading rusher Garner Hicks, who was sidelined with a leg injury, according to Coach Dick Hill.
And Villa Park (4-3 overall, 1-1 in league play) was rewarded with a victory, which was notable for stopping Santa Ana's 18-game Century League winning streak and for ending the Spartans' three-game losing streak. Santa Ana is 5-2, 1-1.
Villa Park's season to date has been a curious one. The Spartans opened with three consecutive victories, including a 24-21 victory over Los Alamitos, then Orange County's top-ranked team.
Three consecutive losses followed. The Spartans fumbled six times and lost to Orange. Six turnovers against Trabuco Hills led to another loss. And last week, they lost the league opener to Foothill.
The Spartans bounced back Thursday with a victory over a Santa Ana team that was ranked seventh in the county poll and had gone undefeated in league play since 1985.
Afterward, Pat Mahoney, Villa Park coach, tried to explain the Spartans' topsy-turvy season.
"We didn't turn the ball over (the Spartans did fumble once Thursday)," Mahoney said. "We were a little flat in the Orange game. We showed a lot of frustration the last two weeks.
"This, (like the Los Alamitos game), was a game we weren't supposed to win."
And yet they did.
Quarterback Jason Martian threw three touchdown passes, completing eight of 14 passes for 123 yards.
Fullback Ryan Smith caught two of Martian's touchdown passes and rushed for a game-high 118 yards in 12 carries. Smith missed the first five games of the season with a broken clavicle, suffered during the summer.
Villa Park stayed away from Oscar Wilson, Santa Ana's menacing defensive end, and was successful. Tailback Gary Bladow added 72 yards in eight carries.