High-SchoolFootball: Santa Margarita (Calif.)

Johnny StantonTom Hauck/ESPNHSJohnny Stanton led Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.) to a state title in December. He'll be looking for an Elite 11 finals invite on Friday night.
Throughout this offseason, we’ve spotlighted Class of 2013 quarterbacks who have a shot at making the Elite 11 finals in July. This week, we profile Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.) junior Johnny Stanton, who will compete in the Oakland Elite 11 regional on Friday.

Johnny Stanton isn’t afraid of the big moment.

With his team trailing 37-36 in the CIF Division I State Championship Bowl Game, the Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.) junior quarterback led the Eagles on a dramatic fourth-quarter drive capped by his one-yard plunge on fourth down with 16 seconds left to give the Eagles a 42-36 win.

Stanton completed 14-of-25 passes in the game for 306 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another touchdown in addition to his game-winner. He finished the year passing for 2,439 yards and 13 touchdowns and rushing for 1,528 yards and 25 scores.

Now, Stanton is ready for another big moment. Friday night he’ll be competing in the Oakland Elite 11 regional, with the MVP earning a ticket to the Elite 11 finals in July. The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder has drawn comparisons to Tim Tebow because of his size and his dual-threat abilities — Stanton is rated the nation’s No. 14 dual-threat QB by ESPN.

But Stanton knows running the ball isn’t going to get him to the Elite 11 finals. He’s been working all offseason on improving his passing mechanics so he can seize the moment on Friday night.

ESPNHS: What were you thinking when your coach decided to go for the touchdown in the state championship?
Stanton: I was excited for him to go for it. We had the bigger guys up front and I think we had the stronger guys. It felt so close yet so far. There was a lot of pressure. After I scored the touchdown, I just started running down the sideline with my finger in the air. It was an incredible experience. I don’t think it hit me until a couple days later. It was definitely a storybook ending for us.

ESPNHS: How were you able to stay so composed during the winning drive?
Stanton: We just knew our whole season depended on this. I think all of us dreamt of that and knew what to do in that moment. That really helped us keep our composure. It was a product of a year’s worth of practice, weightlifting and watching film.

ESPNHS: How has your team kept from staying complacent this offseason?
Stanton: Coach (Harry) Welch has been really helping with that. Any time he thinks we’re getting content, he might lecture us. A couple of times, he’s shown us film of Brophy Prep (Phoenix), our first game of the season, so we can see what we have to be ready for. We all know we can have a much better year than we had last season.

ESPNHS: What do you think of the comparisons to Tim Tebow?
Stanton: I really do appreciate the comparisons to him. As unorthodox as he is, I still think he’s a good quarterback. He still finds a way to win, and there’s something to be said about that, especially at that level. Tebow isn’t afraid to run through guys, and I’m not afraid to, either. Just the way that he carries himself, he’s really a great role model for athletes.

ESPNHS: Where does your recruiting stand?
Stanton: The schools that have offered are Air Force, Washington, Cal, San Diego State and Navy. I’m hearing from Wisconsin, Oregon State and Nebraska and some from Washington State. I want to choose the best school for me, and whether that school has offered me or not, I’m not sure yet. I’m not really setting a timeframe. I’m not really worrying about it too much yet. As long as schools are still looking at me, I’m happy.

ESPNHS: What are you looking to prove at the Oakland regional?
Stanton: A lot of people think I’m an athlete playing quarterback. I want to show that I’m a better thrower than people think. There are going to be a lot of great quarterbacks there. I think I can throw it pretty well on the run. I’m trying to stay consistent and have a good day out there.

ESPNHS: What would an Elite 11 invite mean to you?
Stanton: It would be really cool. Just getting there would be a great accomplishment for me just to show how far I’ve come. It would mean a lot to me.

Johnny Stanton
School: Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.)
Position: QB
Class: 2013
2011 Team Record: 13-2 (CIF Division I state champ; No. 27 in POWERADE FAB 50)

2011 Stats
Passing Yards: 2,439
TD: 13
Rushing Yards: 1,528
TD: 25

FAB 50 Offseason Primer: Santa Margarita

January, 11, 2012
Ryan WolpinAlex Gallardo/For ESPNLA.comRunning back Ryan Wolpin tallied 27 touchdowns and rushed for 1,637 yards in 2011 and returns to a stocked Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.) offense in 2012.
During the offseason, we’ll profile one team each week that looks like a sure bet to be among the best in the nation for next fall.

This week’s team: Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.).

2011 Season: 13-2, CIF Division I state bowl champion, finished No. 27 in the POWERADE FAB 50.

Projected 2012 Preseason Ranking: Top 15. The Eagles won’t be in front of De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) to start next season since the Spartans have won three straight CIF Open Division state bowl games, but in the preseason rankings are a lock to be No. 2 in California and No. 1 for Southern California.

Team Strengths: Nine starters return on offense with four on defense. Quarterback Johnny Stanton was one of five finalists for the Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Football State Player of the Year honor after passing for 2,439 yards and 13 touchdowns while rushing for 1,528 yards and 25 scores. Also returning will be running back Ryan Wolpin, who piled up 27 touchdowns and rushed for 1,637 yards. A massive offensive line will miss ESPNHS All-American Max Tuerk, but still will have Riley Sorenson (6-5, 315) and Dane Crane (6-3, 295). A sophomore to watch next season could be Riley's younger brother Will Sorenson (6-5, 325). On defense, the top returnee is safety Connor O’Brien, who led the team in interceptions with eight.

Another California team to watch: Lincoln (Stockton, Calif.) didn't make the FAB 50 in 2011, but the Trojans, 11-2 in 2011, could be the team to beat in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section after finishing as a semifinalist in the 2011 Division I playoffs. They will return perhaps the best running back and quarterback duo in Northern California in Justin Davis and Zack Greenlee. Davis rushed for 2,599 yards and scored 39 touchdowns last season, while Greenlee passed for 2,420 yards with 22 touchdowns and just five interceptions.