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PREP EXTRA / Orange County High School Football

Santa Margarita Passes Early Test

Preps: Tough opener still results in a 13-8 victory over Compton Dominguez.

September 12, 1998|MARTIN HENDERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When Santa Margarita Coach Jim Hartigan put Compton Dominguez on his schedule--in the season opener, no less--he knew his team was taking a step up in competition.

They were also taking a chance with their 25-game winning streak.

But Hartigan breathed a sigh of relief, as did most of the 4,200 at Saddleback College, as third-ranked Santa Margarita outlasted Dominguez for a 13-8 victory.

The Eagles were ranked 11th in the state by Cal-Hi Sports magazine, the Dons 18th.

"It's a step up for us. Traditionally, we've played Trabuco Hills, which is a good team, but we're stepping into a bigger arena with a young team," said Hartigan, whose squad returns four starters on offense and defense from last year's Southern Section champion.

"We're trying to get used to our future, probably in Division I, an all-Catholic league."

Santa Margarita trailed only four times in 1997, but it fell behind Dominguez after the Dons scored a two-point conversion on a broken point-after attempt.

Instead of kicking for a 7-7 tie, Everett Smith passed to Ryan Thompson for an 8-7 lead with 1 minute 14 seconds left in the first quarter.

But Dominguez, a young team with only four seniors who had appreciable varsity experience on last season's 10-2 section semifinalist, committed 16 penalties for 137 yards, and that prevented the Dons from staging an upset.

On a critical drive that began in the third quarter, the Dons committed seven penalties, two after a second-and-eight situation on the 14 that led to a 45-yard field-goal attempt falling short.

Dominguez dominated the third quarter, but Santa Margarita controlled the fourth. Dominguez ran only four plays in the final 10 minutes 30 seconds.

"Throughout the season, we've got to be able to experience things like that, fight back," Hartigan said.

The Eagles' defense held Dominguez to 105 yards rushing, 85 passing, and didn't give up the big play against a team Hartigan said was quicker than his.

"The defensive effort in the third quarter was a great test of will for us," said safety Spencer McCroskey, who had an interception and rushed for a game-high 92 yards.

Santa Margarita rushed for 174 yards and Greg Orlando passed for 46 (7-13, one interception).

Santa Margarita ran at will on the first drive. It went 57 yards in eight plays, 50 by McCroskey, before Orlando scored from one yard. Orlando also threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Mike O'Gorman with 3:16 left in the half.

Dominguez showed its resiliency after Orlando's sneak. Johnny Bentley (11 carries, 65 yards) rushed for 15 yards, caught a pass from Smith for 35, and completed a six-play, 63-yard drive with a one-yard run. Then came the busted point-after that Dominguez turned to its advantage.

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