CHINO HILLS -- Charter Oak quarterback Travis Santiago put an end to concerns about his sprained ankle rather quickly Thursday night.
Hobbling and in pain, the senior barely warmed up before the game. When he walked onto the field for the first drive, he did so gingerly. But then, when Santiago hit Chris Gilchrist with a fade pass on the first play from scrimmage, the lingering doubts disappeared. Gilchrist stormed into the end zone untouched, and all was well with Santiago's psyche.
Santiago, usually a running threat, was not mobile but still excelled, passing for 288 yards and two touchdowns, and leading the Chargers to the Sierra League title with a 38-7 win against defending champion Chino Hills.
"I was a little bit stiff," said Santiago, who rolled his ankle by accidentally stepping on his helmet during Wednesday's walk-through practice. "That first play was exciting. I got the matchup that I wanted, threw it over the top and had my 6-foot-5 receiver do the rest."
Santiago took a seat early in the fourth quarter when No. 20 Charter Oak (9-1, 5-0) went up comfortably. He finished the regular season with 2,624 passing yards and 21 touchdown passes.
Sophomore sensation Kurt Scoby, who heading into Thursday was dealing with a left ankle sprain of his own, rushed for two second-half touchdowns and had 119 yards through the ground. His 40-yard scoring scamper with 10:22 remaining sealed it.
"We executed," Scoby said, "and were patient with the football."
Charter Oak’s high-octane attack struck quickly early in the second half. Santiago found Aaren Vaughns for a 14-yard touchdown and, minutes later, Scoby ran for a 36-yard score, giving the Chargers a 24-7 advantage. After trailing by only three at the break, Chino Hills (6-4, 4-1) found itself in too big of a hole.
Santiago's ankle wasn't 100 percent but, unfortunately for the Huskies, his arm was just fine.
"Travis had to play in this game," Charter Oak Lou Farrar said. "But he was hurting."
Santiago, who has the attention of several Pac-12 and WAC schools, passed for 234 yards in the first half alone and completed 17 of 28 attempts for the game. He was picked off by Taz Zorrilla in the first quarter but Chino Hills turned the ball over on downs. The Huskies' defense came up with another crucial stop at its own 30, setting up a long drive that ended with an Andrew Chavez four-yard touchdown pass to Adam Buck, making it 10-7 at the half.
The Chargers made a few defensive adjustments and scored 28 unanswered. Safety Jonathan Thropay had two of Charter Oak's three fourth-quarter interceptions, returning the first 96 yards for a touchdown.
"It's a dream come true," Santiago said. "It's the way to end it for me, for our coaching staff and the rest of our team. We're all excited and ready for the playoffs now."