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Anderson, Saints run past Marauders to stay unbeaten

MIRA MESA – St. Augustine isn’t just running with bigger schools this season – they are running past them. The fifth-ranked Saints beat Mira Mesa 28-14 on Friday night with a solid all-around performance sparked by 272 rushing yards from running back Aaron Anderson.

“We earned this and we worked hard all week long,” Anderson said. “We came out ready to play and we sealed up the victory.”

St. Augustine (6-0, 1-0 Eastern) had a 21-7 lead early in the fourth quarter when Mira Mesa (3-3, 0-1) made it a one-possession game on a Dominic Richardson 25-yard touchdown pass to Addison Morrow with 9:27 remaining. With its grip on the game suddenly slipping, St. Augustine responded with an Anderson-heavy touchdown drive that drained nearly seven minutes.

“They were playing man-to-man coverage and we handled the pressure and picked up the guys up front,” said St. Augustine head coach Richard Sanchez. “(Anderson) was just free-hitting defensive backs all night and I knew they couldn’t hang with us doing that for four quarters.”

Anderson rushed for 79 yards on the scoring drive capped by a Joe Kennedy 15-yard touchdown pass to Patrick Dixon that put St. Augustine ahead 28-14 with less than three minutes to play. The bruising senior finished with 38 carries and punished Mira Mesa defenders late into in the game.

“I usually get the ball a lot, so it was fine,” Anderson said. “I love getting the ball and I wouldn’t want to play any other position.”

Anderson opened the game’s scoring with a 48-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter. Midway through the second quarter Kennedy put St. Augustine ahead by 14 with a one-yard quarterback keeper, as the Saints showed no signs of a letdown after beating Eastlake the week before.

“We went full practice on Monday – two hours, full pads and hitting – just to let them know we have to keep pushing,” Sanchez said. “I think that helped and they did a great job preparing.”

Mira Mesa got on the board in the final minute of the half with 4-yard Richardson touchdown run and trailed St. Augustine 14-7 at halftime. The Marauders started with the ball in the third quarter, but on the first play from scrimmage Richardson was stripped and St. Augustine defensive back Alberto Acosta pounced on the loose ball to give the Saints possession at the Mira Mesa 22-yard line.

“That was brutal,” said Mira Mesa head coach Gary Blevins. “If we would have shot out of there and scored it would have been a different game.”

St. Augustine capitalized on the short field, extending its lead to 14 points with an Anderson 4-yard touchdown run. The Saints’ defense preserved that lead for the rest of the third quarter by slowing Mira Mesa’s spread attack and forcing the Marauders to punt on consecutive drives.

“We didn’t have the speed to run with them, so we played off and made some movements up front,” Sanchez said. “Playing zone helped us keep them in front of us.”

Mira Mesa cut St. Augustine’s lead to seven points early in the fourth quarter, but the Marauders couldn’t stop the Saints and get the ball back. With the victory, St. Augustine defeated a quality Division I opponent for the second consecutive week.

“We’re working hard and we deserved both these victories,” Anderson said. “All that extra conditioning paid off.”

Anderson’s gaudy numbers on the ground highlighted an efficient team effort from St. Augustine. The undefeated Saints continue to climb the rankings have their sights set on the Division III title that has belonged to rival Cathedral Catholic for the past four years.

“We didn’t get the opportunity to go to the ‘Q’ last year, but I’m sure if we do this year we’re going to go all the way and win the whole thing,” Anderson said.

Mira Mesa has lost two straight since winning three of its first four games to open the season. Against St. Augustine, the Marauders struggled to find consistency running the ball and couldn’t get defensive stops when they needed to.

“This is good preparation for the third season – the playoffs,” Blevins said. “We just have to rebound and regroup a little bit. It was a tough one tonight – I thought we had a chance to beat them.”

Pictured: St. Augustine quarterback Joe Kennedy under center

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