With six games going on at all times, it was tough to commit to one. Well, with the exception of the 11:30 matchup between Santa Margarita and El Toro. The prospect of seeing quarterbacks Johnny Stanton and Conner Manning square off, only the two best in Orange County, was a no-brainer.
The bigger challenge, as is the case with any passing league contest, is discerning what really matters. Remember, there are no pads, no linemen and no tackling. Every possession starts at the opponent’s 40. It’s glorified backyard football.
Such a setting led me to believe El Toro, with it’s quick, no-huddle, spread offense would have its way. Didn’t happen. Santa Margarita scored on the game’s opening possession, completed a two-point conversion and never looked back in a 42-24 victory.
The two teams initially went back-and-forth, with each scoring on their first three possessions. But the Eagles then picked off Manning on three consecutive drives, returning one for a touchdown.
I’m thinking this had a lot to do with Manning not used to facing a secondary of that caliber, though he downplayed that when I spoke with him afterward. Manning was visibly frustrated with his receivers following the picks but later said he made a couple bad decisions and forced some throws.
El Toro sophomore receiver Dominic Collins was very impressive, hauling in two touchdowns. Eagles receiver River Cracraft caught three touchdowns from Stanton in a short span, demonstrating why he’s their top target.
It was easy to see why everyone loves Stanton, who threw five touchdowns (with just one drive stalling) and converted four extra-point throws. He is a natural leader. He also has a nice arm, better than he seems to get credit for. His accuracy is there on intermediate throws and he threw a decent deep ball. A fellow scribe told me he’s much better in a game setting than a passing tourney or quarterback camp, which is a scary thought.
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