LONG BEACH -- A week ago, when Los Alamitos was beating L.A. University by 56 points, coach John Barnes said he didn't really know how good his team was. The Griffins, ranked No. 25 this week by ESPNLA, hadn't played anyone who could mount a significant challenge, a team that could really test their mettle, a team that had the respect of the football community.
On Thursday, in the fifth game of the season, the Griffins finally faced that team.
And they learned they have some work to do.
Johnny Stanton rushed for 147 yards and passed for 154, and Ryan Wolpin rushed for 214 as second-ranked Santa Margarita scored a 38-27 victory over Los Alamitos in the last nonleague game for both teams. Each begins league play in two weeks, with Los Alamitos playing its primary rival in the Sunset League, Edison; Santa Margarita plays against Mater Dei in the Trinity League opener.
Kicker John McGrory had a record-setting night, breaking the Southern Section record for most consecutive point-after touchdowns. McGrory kicked five, giving him 85 in a row.
Los Alamitos showed far more spark than it did in last year's 31-7 loss to Santa Margarita, which was one of the most listless performances ever by a team coached by Barnes. The Griffins were fighting until the end and did manage to make the game reasonably close.
Still, after a quick start, Los Alamitos was overmatched as Santa Margarita's sustained drives took a toll. The Griffins made it close in the fourth quarter when they scored two touchdowns in a 53-second span after scoring only two TDs in the first 43 minutes.
Santa Margarita held a 38-14 lead with 8:50 left after Wolpin scored from one yard, capping a 26-yard drive instigated by Reid Andrew's interception.
Stanton rushed for three touchdowns, including a 52-yarder on a draw, and Wolpin scored twice in a night in which he carried 33 times for 214 yards.
Los Al looked as if it was going to make a game of it. It scored on its first two possessions, including the second play of the game when Cody Paul broke off a 72-yard run. After Santa Margarita matched it with a nine-play drive, Dylan Lagarde's pass to Joshua Caiquo covered 61 yards and a 14-7 Los Alamitos lead.
That was the last scoring for Los Al until the final five minutes of the game.
Santa Margarita was just getting warmed up, though, putting together sustained drives that ate the clock and chewed up the Griffins' defense. It scored on its first three drives, and might have made it four out of the first five but a 15-yard penalty for blocking below the waist on first-and-goal at the three-yard line foiled the drive.
"We learned a lot. We did a great job, played real good defense we were just outmanned," Barnes said. "Nobody will beat us physical like this again, and if we had played a little better offense in the second quarter we had a couple plays wide open for touchdowns. ...T he game would have gone to the wire."
But on the Santa Margarita sideline, it was obvious they had done a poor job of finishing after a brilliant start.
"Our first half was a 10, our second half we had some troubles," Stanton said. "It definitely was not as good as the first half. We could have done a lot better."
Santa Margarita drove 88 yards in 11 plays in the final 2:38 of the first half to take a 28-14 lead, and went 16 plays and 70 yards to open the second half before McGrory kicked a 27-yard field goal to make it 31-14.
McGrory's five PATs gave him 85 in a row, breaking the Southern Section record of 81 shared by Mitch Murar of Trabuco Hills and Steve Beyer of Claremont.
Santa Margarita added only one more score in the second half.
"I think we got a little bit lazy, we were up by three touchdowns, some people got a little lazy I guess, but we got a pretty young team, it's just inexperience," said offensive tackle Max Tuerk. "Now we have that experience, it will probably never happen again."