Marty Graham 4:30 p.m., Feb. 24
SOLANA BEACH – On a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon, Santa Fe Christian delivered a gritty defensive performance worthy of winter weather. The Eagles shut down visiting Coronado and did just enough offensively to prevail 25-15.
“It seems like it’s going to be a defensive year this year,” said Santa Fe Christian safety Hunter Vaccaro. “I think our defense is what is going to have to win us games.”
Santa Fe Christian (2-1) bookended the first half with touchdowns to take a 13-0 lead after a half where both teams struggled offensively. On the Eagles’ first offensive play running back Tony Miro ran for a 62-yard score, and with 32 seconds to play in the second quarter Connor Moore connected with Jarrod Watson-Lewis for a 17-yard touchdown.
Late in the third quarter, Santa Fe Christian had a 16-0 lead and Coronado (2-1) appeared out of answers offensively. The Islanders found success by switching to a no huddle attack, which led to a 65-yard touchdown drive capped with an Austin Denson 2-yard scoring run and two-point conversion that make it a one-possession game.
“It was challenging getting everybody set up and ready for the next play,” Vaccaro said. “A lot of people had their heads stuck in the last play – what they did wrong – and it was just hard to forget and move on.”
Sparked by the touchdown, Coronado successfully attempted an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff. The Islanders had the ball and the momentum but Santa Fe Christian’s defense got the stop, forcing a punt and keeping its lead.
“We just needed to get it done. The game should have ended a long time ago and we just needed to close them out, go home and celebrate a victory,” Vacarro said. “We didn’t want to stay out there any longer.”
Santa Fe Christian stopped Coronado one more time in the fourth quarter, ending the drive with Zachary Neufeld sacking Denson on fourth down. After that stop, the Eagles put the game out of reach with a halfback pass suggested by receivers coach Casey Ward – a pass that went from Watson-Lewis to receiver Cole Needham for a 29-yard score.
“(Ward) had been begging for that, and Jarrod had been throwing some balls before the game,” said Santa Fe Christian head coach Nick Ruscetta. “We had to resort to some trickery today.”
The trick play put Santa Fe Christian ahead 23-8 with 3:15 left in the game. The Eagles tried something different after struggling to run the ball for most of the afternoon.
“They had a great scheme against us,” Ruscetta said. “Defenses catch up to offenses and we’ve beaten them the past few years and they did a great job of taking away our run.”
Less than a minute later Santa Fe Christian punctuated the victory with a safety, when Coronado was called for holding in its own end zone. The Islanders scored a touchdown before time ran out, but it was little more than consolation as they lost their first game of the season.
“Our motto is defense, special teams, field position, and ball control on offense,” Ruscetta said. “That’s the order and today that played out.”
Since losing its opener to Westview, Santa Fe Christian has won two straight. The Eagles haven’t allowed more than 21 points in a game so far.
“The key was making sure that every player stood to what he needed to do,” Vacarro said. “Nobody is trying to cover for anyone and we have full confidence in the players out there on defense.”
Pictured: Santa Fe Christian running back Jarrod Watson-Lewis carries the ball between two Coronado defenders
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