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SOLANA BEACH – With first place in the Coastal League on the line on Saturday afternoon, defense was at a premium. Santa Fe Christian rode a big third quarter and outlasted Christian for a 48-34 win that has the Eagles on track for the top seed in Division V.

“It means a lot,” said Santa Fe Christian running back Tony Miro. “We put in all the hours and all the work for it.”

The first half was a slow back and forth between both teams. Santa Fe Christian (7-1, 3-0 Coastal) scored a touchdown on its first offensive play of the game and led 14-0 after the first quarter, but the second quarter belonged to Christian (5-3, 3-1) as the Patriots scored 13 unanswered points and held the ball for the final seven minutes of the quarter.

“At the beginning of the game, we took a series or so to get used to their speed and how they run,” said Christian quarterback Shane Dillon. “When we missed the snap on the punt and then they scored it kind of put us in a hole. But we bounced back.”

On the first play of the second half, Santa Fe Christian running back Grant Lucier unknowingly turned the game into a shootout by returning the kickoff 78 yards for a touchdown. Lucier’s kick return was the first of six touchdowns scored in the third quarter, and Santa Fe Christian had a 41-27 advantage over Christian headed into the fourth quarter.

“It was all morale,” Miro said about the kickoff return. “We got pumped up.”

The game slowed down in the fourth quarter, and Miro scored on a one-yard touchdown run with 7:26 left to put Santa Fe Christian ahead 48-27. On the next drive Dillon connected with Jason Gaines on a 33-yard touchdown pass, but Christian couldn’t get closer than two scores for the rest of the game.

“We knew we could do it, we had a job and we did it,” Miro said.

Miro rushed for three touchdowns and threw for one, connecting with quarterback Connor Moore on a 23-yard halfback pass in the first quarter. On two separate occasions, Miro scored on the first play of a Santa Fe Christian drive.

“That was all my line. It takes no skill to run the ball – literally almost no skill,” Miro said. “It was just run straight, see the hole, follow their butts and run. Our line stepped it up this game and that’s all it took to win.”

At quarterback, Moore did a little bit of everything for Santa Fe Christian – the senior threw a touchdown pass, ran for a touchdown and caught one. After relying on its defense to win games early, the Eagles have averaged 51 points per game so far in the Coastal League.

“Our offense usually takes a little while to get started, but this game it was the exact opposite,” Miro said.

For Christian, Dillon threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more. The Colorado-bound senior threw a season-high 52 passes and was encouraged despite the loss.

“This had the feeling of a championship game and we know now that we can’t take any plays off if we want to win,” Dillon said. “A lot of guys weren’t sure how this game was going to go; now all the guys know we can hang we these guys.”

Santa Fe Christian and Christian are two of the best teams in Division V, and it’s likely they will meet again in the postseason. If Saturday afternoon provided any indication, a playoff encounter between the Eagles and Patriots would be an entertaining matchup.

“We’ll definitely see them in CIF – there’s no question about that,” Dillon said.

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Pictured: Santa Fe Christian running back Jarrod Watson-Lewis carries the ball outside

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