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Fountain Valley Pays for Mistakes, 28-20

October 04, 2003|Martin Henderson | Times Staff Writer

There's nothing quite like proving yourself, and both Fountain Valley and Santa Margarita had that in mind Friday night.

In the end, maybe both teams proved their mettle.

Santa Margarita, ranked No. 18 in the Southland by The Times, overcame a 14-point first-quarter deficit and made several huge defensive and special-team plays to win its fourth game in a row by defeating Fountain Valley, 28-20, at Saddleback College.

The No. 17 Barons (2-2), coming off a bye week, had a chance to definitively prove it had arrived after more than a year of mediocrity. The Barons started the 2001 season with five nonleague victories, but went 5-10-1 over the ensuing 16 games leading into the 2003 season.

The Barons are definitely improved. Last season, they lost to Mission Viejo by 48 points, San Clemente by 38 and Santa Margarita by 21 -- a total of 107 points. This year, they fell, 14-13, to Mission Viejo and beat San Clemente, 28-7.

"We should have beaten Mission Viejo," Coach Eric Johnson said. "And I thought, 'Well, we don't know how good Mission is,' but then they beat Mater Dei and Long Beach Poly, so they're pretty good."

Fountain Valley is pretty good too. But the Barons can't win by just showing up. Not against other quality teams like Santa Margarita. The Barons turned the ball over three times, two of them interceptions that were critical to the outcome.

Trailing, 21-14, Fountain Valley drove to the Eagles' 14-yard line, where Jonathan Castillo intercepted a Chris Debowski pass in the end zone and returned it 53 yards in the final minute of the first half.

The other interception came in the fourth quarter while trailing, 21-20. The Barons gained possession at the Eagle 27 after Justin Perry stripped Santa Margarita quarterback Michael Angelo of the ball.

But Fountain Valley squandered the opportunity with an offensive pass interference that moved the ball back to the 42, and Ryan Nienhuis intercepted a pass on the next play and returned it 44 yards to set up Santa Margarita's final score of the game, a one-yard dive by Chris Ramsey.

"We've got to come ready to play," Johnson said. "We've got to get better every week and learn from our mistakes."

Among the mistakes was a penalty that nullified Kevin Gerard 81-yard punt return for a touchdown in the third quarter and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Ryan Best after the defense had held Santa Margarita on third and three at the Baron 12-yard line.

Santa Margarita used the opportunity to score the final touchdown.

Fountain Valley got a 14-yard scoring pass from Debowski to Scott Davis and a 90-yard interception return by Gerard for a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.

Angelo ran for touchdowns of 50 and 64 yards for Santa Margarita and Russell Hoeflich blocked a punt at the Barons' 45 and recovered a teammates' fumble in the end zone for a 21-14 lead. Hoeflich also blocked a point-after attempt to preserve a 21-20 lead.

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