Los Angeles Preps: Bret Miller
Alex Gallardo/ESPNLosAngeles.comCoach Harry Welch celebrates winning the Pac-5 title with his team at Angel Stadium.
ANAHEIM -- For the ninth time in his career, Harry Welch raised a championship trophy over his head. If he could, he would raise Johnny Stanton, too. But Stanton did his own carrying Saturday night at Angel Stadium, carrying the Eagles to the Southern Section Pac-5 title with a 27-13 victory over San Clemente.
Welch has had a lot of these moments -- five with Canyon Country Canyon, three with San Juan Capistrano St. Margaret's -- but when he grabbed the microphone after the game played in front of 14,424, he said "I have never been more proud than I am now."
The last three teams that Santa Margarita (12-2) defeated en route to their first championship since winning back-to-back in 1996-97 had only one loss; third-seeded Long Beach Poly (10-2), second-seeded Mission Viejo (11-2) and San Clemente (12-2).
If Welch loves this team, he'll love next year's too. Only two seniors start on offense, one of them being USC-bound lineman Max Tuerk. But the rest are underclassmen, including Stanton, the dual-threat quarterback who passed for 92 yards and ran for 148. His touchdown pass to River Cracraft with 11 seconds left in the first half gave Santa Margarita a 14-13 lead, and his two-yard score in the third quarter made it 21-13.
Then he engineered the drive of the game, one that covered 89 yards and consumed 9 minutes 56 seconds. It ended with Ryan Wolpin's second score, a three-yard run with 3:09 left in the game. It was at that point that San Clemente got its first possession of the fourth quarter. The Tritons had no more magic in what had been a magical season. Cracraft intercepted a Travis Wilson pass with 1:52 left in the game, and Santa Margarita ran out the clock.