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Saugus Misses Tackles but Grabs a 34-21 Victory Over Thousand Oaks : High school football: Centurion running back Chris Johnson rushes for 204 yards and two touchdowns.


As the final seconds ticked off the clock in Saugus High's 34-21 victory over Thousand Oaks on Friday night, Centurion defensive back Matt Gillis offered an assessment of the nonleague opener.

"We have to go back to tackling drills next week," Gillis said. "Once we get that down, we'll have it."

By "it," Gillis meant a complete game. Before the 6-foot-3 junior made two third-quarter interceptions, Saugus didn't do much tackling.

Gillis, in fact, let Thousand Oaks running back Greg Johnson run right through his arms en route to a 27-yard touchdown that was nullified by a holding penalty with Saugus leading, 14-7, in the second quarter.

"I know I didn't do well on that play," Gillis said. "But once we got our offense going, our defense and special teams picked it up."

Three interceptions and a fumble spelled disaster for the Lancers. They allowed running back Chris Johnson and the Saugus offense back on the field. Johnson, a 6-2, 218-pound senior, rushed for 204 yards in 24 carries, including two touchdowns.

Thanks in part to Gillis' interceptions, Johnson and Co. salted away the victory by keeping the ball on the ground and outscoring Thousand Oaks, 20-8, in the second half.

Quarterback Trevor Thompson, Thousand Oaks' biggest offensive weapon, completed nine of 20 passes for 103 yards and no touchdowns.

"The interceptions were very important," Johnson said. "But when we took the ball out of their hands, I think everybody got more confident, including my line and including me."

The two teams played virtually even in the first half, with Saugus clinging to a 14-13 lead by virtue of Chris Weerts' failed extra-point kick. But the tight score had as much to do with undoing than it did doings.

It usually took three Thousand Oaks players to tackle Johnson, who had 109 yards in 14 carries at halftime.

Saugus missed tackles. Period.

That basic defensive necessity was most clearly missing on kick returns--which set up both Thousand Oaks scores. Lancer Greg Aguilar romped 69 yards before last-man Nick Lawson dragged him to the turf. Late in the second quarter, Jimmy Salinas returned a punt 33 yards.

Thanks to Saugus, the Lancers marched 22 and 27 yards for scores. The Centurions took the longer route, moving 77 yards in 10 plays on the game's opening drive. Johnson keyed it when he ran 55 yards through a hole created by James Aardahl and Jeff Brown.

Four plays later, Aardahl and Brown escorted Phillip Waterman into the end zone from four yards. Saugus then went 66 yards in 10 plays to go ahead, 14-7, with Johnson rambling in from the 11.

But Thousand Oaks showed no respect for the Centurion defense. Facing fourth down and eight on their opening possession, the Lancers elected to pass, and they converted.

Thompson hit Matt Elam on a slant pattern for 15 yards to the Saugus five. Mike Thomas scored on the next play.

With 1:14 left in the half, Thomas capped a fortuitous drive with a two-yard run. The 27-yard drive was keyed by Thompson's swing pass to Greg Johnson that covered 18 yards. Thompson was hit as he passed on the next play. The pass went straight up in the air but Chris Casillas dived and caught the wobbling pass at the two.

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