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ORANGE COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREP EXTRA

Santa Margarita Escapes With Narrow Victory

October 10, 1998|GEOFF BILAU | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Santa Margarita Coach Jim Hartigan was glad it wasn't his decision to make. And Rancho Bernardo Coach Ron Hamamoto couldn't explain why he made the one he did.

Hamamoto decided to go for a two-point conversion late in the fourth quarter and No. 8 Santa Margarita held on for a 24-23 victory in a nonleague game Friday night at Saddleback College.

With 1 minute 46 seconds remaining in the game, the Broncos, ranked sixth in San Diego County, scored to pull within one and went for two.

But scrambling quarterback Michael Rathe was stopped six inches from the goal line by Santa Margarita defenders John Bennett and Tyler Thompson.

"I can't explain why I went for two," Hamamoto said. "We went for it two weeks ago against Temecula Valley, got it and beat them, 22-21. I just think it's the right thing to do in a high school football game."

Hartigan, who said his team badly needed the victory after its 28-game winning streak was stopped last week by San Clemente, said he probably would have done the same thing.

"That's a tough decision," Hartigan said. "He went for the win and didn't get it. But it's a good decision, I think."

Santa Margarita (4-1) led 14-0 after the first quarter and 17-9 at the half.

But Rancho Bernardo (4-1) pulled even 30 seconds into the fourth quarter on Josh Sauley's two-yard touchdown run and Austin Willenbring's sweep right for the two-point conversion.

The Eagles drove 71 yards in 15 plays on the next drive, taking a 24-17 lead on Greg Orlando's 15-yard pass to Matt Lopez.

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