The Los Al Alamitos Griffins travelled down to South County Saturday night to challenge the Santa Margarita Eagles in one of the feature match ups of this young season. The #7 Eagles have been raising some eyebrows with convincing wins over old stalwarts Newport Harbor and El Toro while the #6 Griffins were taking care of business with the rapidly improving programs at Beckman and Marina. Also at stake was Los Al’s three year win streak over Santa Margarita. The Eagles had not recorded a victory over the Griffins since 2009. In a game that was not decided until the final seconds, Santa Margarita jumped out to an early 4-0 lead before hanging on for a 9-8 win over a Los Al team that does not know how to quit.
Santa Margarita did not waste any time scoring as Wes Schuler (three goals on the night) fired a missile past Jackson Browner from 18 yards out, only 1 minute and 15 seconds after the opening faceoff. The Eagles continued to apply pressure throughout the first quarter. Logan Dochterman finished a pass on the crease from Drew Webster at the 5 minute mark. Webster found the top corner on an unassisted goal about 30 seconds later. Schuler scored with another long range missile (this time with an assist from Hayden Ruiz) to close out the first quarter 4 – 0 in favor of Santa Margarita. It looked like the Eagles were on their way to their third easy win of the season.
The momentum began to turn early in the second quarter when the Eagles were hit with a three minute non-releasable for an illegal stick. Los Al took advantage and made it 4-1 at 9:37 of the second as Josh Duchon took a feed from Tyler Miller and waltzed through Santa Margarita’s befuddled mandown D. An opportunistic Skyler Rockey got one back for the Eagles as he put back a rebound on the crease about one minute later to make it 5 -1 Santa Margarita. Santa Margarita was still shorthanded when Duchon scored again to bring the Griffs back to within 3 at 7:19 of the second. Duchon found space on the Santa Margarita crease, collected an alley-oop from Brandon Ezell and finished a goal that he made look easy. Los Al was not done yet as Miller took a pass from Jace Heller and beat Griffin Rockey low and to the right with a sweet shot from 5 yards out. One minute later Duchon showed his versatility by scoring his third goal of the night, this one from long range, to make it a one goal game. Schuler’s third goal of the night made it 6-4 Santa Margarita at halftime.
The Eagles got right back to business in the second half as Garrett Parsons (12/16 on faceoffs and 9 groundballs on the night) won the opening faceoff and dished off to Drew Webster who made it 7-4 Santa Margarita. Miller scored the only other goal of the quarter when he beat Rockey at the 2:37 minute mark to make it 7-5 and set up the fourth quarter drama.
Los Al drew first blood in the fourth quarter when Heller scored just 45 seconds after the whistle to make it 7-6. Skyler Rockey put the Eagles back up by 2 with his second goal of the night 2 minutes later. Try as they might, the Eagles could not make the Griffins go away. Heller scored his second goal (assist from Ezell) to make it 8-7, and then Josh Jenks took a pass from Ezzell walked in on Rockey and went from low to high to tie the game with 3:40 to go. A minute and half later, Hayden Ruiz took a pass from Webster, tiptoed the crease, and put the Eagles back by 1. Still the Griffins would not quit. Coach Ben Barchey called a timeout to set up a play with 20 seconds to go. The Griffins restarted from midfield and moved the ball into the Eagles end of the field. Miller ended up with the ball in his stick, beat the Eagles defense to set up a clean shot from 10 yards out that beat Rockey with only a few ticks left on the clock but he hit the crossbar. The rebound landed in front of the net where Parsons picked up the groundball and heaved it downfield to seal the Eagles 9-8 win. Finally.
Los Al was led Duchon (3 goals) and Miller (2 goals and an assist). Duchon scored all of his goals within a five minute span in the second quarter that put his team back in the game. Heller had 2 goals and 2 assists. Brandon Ezell contributed 3 assists and 3 ground balls. Casey Mais led the Griffins with 4 ground balls.
Wes Schuler led the Santa Margarita offense with three goals. Drew Webster finished with two goals and two assists. Ruiz had an assist and the game winning goal. Parsons led the defensive effort as he scooped up 9 groundballs and went 12/16 on faceoffs.
The Eagles are now 3-0 on the season as they prepare for games against Poway (home) and Cathedral Catholic (away) this week. Los Al drops to 2-1 and they will face Trabuco Hills and Esperanza at Mcauliffe Middle School this week.