Santa Margarita running back Ryan Wolpin heads for the end zone and the game-clinching… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
OMG, or "oh my God" if you have to spell it out, was the text message of the day coming out of Saddleback College on Friday night during a playoff-like football game between No. 1-ranked Santa Margarita and No. 3 Ventura St. Bonaventure.
Santa Margarita (5-0) pulled out a 35-27 victory that left participants from both sides feeling exhilarated just from what they saw and felt.
"They gave us everything we could handle and then some," Santa Margarita Coach Harry Welch said. "They're marvelous."
Said St. Bonaventure Coach Todd Therrien: "It was billed as the top high school football game in America, and you can't go wrong with these two programs."
There was 6-foot-4 sophomore quarterback Ricky Town of St. Bonaventure completing his first 12 passes while eluding one Santa Margarita rusher after another. He finished 19 of 24 for 177 yards and one touchdown.
There was running back Zachary Green of St. Bonaventure dragging and running over Santa Margarita defenders en route to 103 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
There was senior quarterback Johnny Stanton of Santa Margarita rushing for 100 yards and one touchdown, passing for 132 yards and two touchdowns and making an unforgettable escape in the fourth quarter, turning a certain safety into a first-down run.
There was senior running back Ryan Wolpin of Santa Margarita rushing for 204 yards and scoring three touchdowns.
And there was a relieved Welch going into the St. Bonaventure huddle after the game to praise the Seraphs' performance.
St. Bonaventure (4-1) showed no fear of the Eagles from start to finish. The Seraphs scored on their first three possessions to open a 21-14 halftime lead. Green had touchdown runs of 31 and three yards and Town fired a five-yard scoring pass to Montre Lee on fourth and goal.
But Santa Margarita came out in the third quarter and took command with consecutive scoring drives. Kyle Sweet caught a 44-yard touchdown pass from Stanton, and Stanton scored on a one-yard dive.
St. Bonaventure closed to 28-27 with 2:50 left on a six-yard touchdown run by Green. Then Therrien decided to go for the lead, but Green was stuffed on a two-point run attempt.
Wolpin's 50-yard scoring run with 1:30 left gave the Eagles an eight-point lead. And then the Santa Margarita defense sacked Town for the first time, stripping away the ball with 47 seconds left.
St. Bonaventure standout defensive lineman Dalton Rocha was on the verge of sacking Stanton in the end zone with just over nine minutes left when Stanton got away and picked up a first down at the 19.
"You definitely have to hold on tight and wrap him up," Rocha said of the 6-2, 220-pound Stanton.
It's the dilemma every team left on Santa Margarita's schedule will have to deal with — finding a way to stop Stanton & Co.