Tamar Fleishman 5:53 p.m., Feb. 25
SOLANA BEACH – Santa Fe Christian has turned the typically competitive Coastal League into a one-team race thus far this season. Against La Jolla Country Day on Saturday afternoon, the Eagles scored the first 17 points en route to a 37-6 blowout of the Torreys to remain unbeaten in league play.
“We’re undefeated in Coastal League and this definitely gives us momentum going into the last two weeks,” said Santa Fe Christian junior defensive back Cole Needham. “Our goal is a Coastal League championship and we’re pursuing it right now.”
After a defensive start to the game, Santa Fe Christian (5-3, 3-0 Coastal) broke through late in the first quarter. The Eagles opened the scoring with a field goal and made it 10-0 with a 17-yard touchdown by senior running back Tony Miro in the last minute of the quarter.
Late in the second quarter, a new addition to Santa Fe Christian’s playbook put the Eagles further in front. On ‘29 Jet Kick,’ junior running back Jerry Harper took a handoff parallel to the line of scrimmage, made an abrupt cut upfield and ran untouched for an 81-yard score that gave the Eagles a 17-0 lead with 2:02 left in the half.
“We have a play based off of that where we run all the way outside but on that play we stop and cut up the middle – and the defense doesn’t expect it,” Harper said. “Every time we run that play, it happens to run perfectly.”
La Jolla Country Day (4-3, 1-2) ran the hurry-up drill on the ensuing possession to get on the board. The Torreys quickly moved down the field, and a 33-yard field goal by senior Leigh Wallace with 1.9 seconds left made it 17-3 headed into halftime.
On the second play of the third quarter, a Santa Fe Christian fumble gave La Jolla Country Day the ball at the 30-yard line and an opportunity to close the gap. The Eagles’ defense, however, held the Torreys to a field goal – a 22-yard Wallace kick that maintained a two-score advantage for the hosts.
“That was really important,” Needham said. “Coming right out of the half, the first and second drives really set the tone for the rest of the game and we knew we needed to get that stop in order to keep our momentum.”
Santa Fe Christian answered with a touchdown on the next possession – a 4-yard run by senior quarterback Hunter Vaccaro – and then its defense took over to turn the game into a blowout. Needham intercepted passes on consecutive La Jolla Country Day drives, returning the first for a 25-yard touchdown to put the Eagles ahead 30-6 with 2:45 left in the third quarter.
“I saw there was a new quarterback in, so I was trying to play with him a little bit,” Needham said. “I read the play, and right when the wide receiver stopped I broke on the ball and took it to the house.”
Needham’s second interception was a one-on-one play on a deep pass intended for La Jolla Country Day senior receiver Sage Burmeister. Santa Fe Christian turned that takeaway into points when Miro ran for a 68-yard score on the final play of the third quarter as part of his game-high 170 rushing yards.
“All the other teams are bigger than us, so we really have to work on conditioning,” Harper said. “By the third and fourth quarters, we’re still going and the other teams are feeling tired.”
With the decisive victory, Santa Fe Christian continued its dominant form in Coastal League play. The Eagles’ three league wins have come by an average of 30 points, as they aim to win the competitive small school league for the second straight season.
“Our motto ‘Never back down’ is really instilled in us, and we take it to heart in every practice and every game,” Needham said. “That’s what separates us.”
Pictured: La Jolla Country Day senior running back Sage Burmeister tries to shake the tackle attempt of Santa Fe Christian senior defensive back Nathan Ross with a stiff arm
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