MISSION VIEJO -- Do or die. If that wasn't the case when Santa Margarita faced Orange Lutheran on Friday, it's the case now for OLu.
Santa Margarita's 31-10 Trinity League victory at Saddleback College put the Lancers behind the 8-ball even though they came into the game ranked No. 17 in the Southland by ESPNLA. Last week, before losing to top-ranked Servite, they were No. 8.
That didn't matter to Johnny Stanton, who passed for one touchdown to close out the first half and ran for two touchdowns, both in the last five minutes of the game, to lead sixth-ranked Santa Margarita (6-1, 1-1) past the Lancers (5-2, 0-2).
Santa Margarita, ranked No. 2 last week before its stunning 21-14 defeat at the hands of Mater Dei, came into this contest and handled it like it was a playoff game. Coach Harry Welch said he didn't refer to it as a playoff game this week in practice, "but we did say we couldn't be in the playoffs if we didn't win this one."
If it wasn't a playoff game, it was a playoff caliber game.
Welch called Stanton "the engine that pulled us through" as Stanton rushed 13 times for 96 yards and completed nine of 14 passes for 139 yards.
"This game was really crucial," Stanton said. "We knew we were going to have to play a really tough OLu team this game, so we had to step it up in practice. We were all really focused."
Can a team with three losses in the Trinity League still get one of three available playoff berths? "No, we have to win out," said Lutheran coach Jim Kunau, whose Lancers (5-2, 0-2) still must face No. 19 St. John Bosco (6-1, 2-0), No. 25 Mater Dei (3-4, 1-1), and JSerra (3-4, 0-2).
Kunau said the score wasn't indicative of the game, but was indicative of which team made more mistakes.
"They simply made more plays, that was the biggest thing," Kunau said. "Johnny Stanton played really well, Ryan Wolpin made plays. It was weird because we felt we were in the game; it's 17-10, we had a chance to make a couple plays on defense, and we don't make the plays and they did what good teams do, they capitalized on your mistakes and went and scored. ... They played real good defense and did a good job."
Wolpin rushed 20 times for 122 yards and scored from the one to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead it never relinquished. Santa Margarita had two touchdowns and a field goal by John McGrory on its three full first-half possessions, and Lutheran had a Josh Cornelius field goal and Jabari Wilson TD run in its two full possessions.
It was tied, 10-10, when Stanton's five-yard pass to Connor O'Brien completed a 74-yard drive with 34 seconds left in the first half for a 17-10 lead.
The second half was ruled by defense.
Lutheran's Conner Sullivan, who connected on his first 11 passes, finished 14 of 19 for 153 yards with an interception. Wilson carried nine times for 30 yards, and Demetrius Palmer five for a team-high 33.