Mistakes costly in Eagles’ quarterfinal loss
On Oct. 17, the Santa Fe Christian Eagles football team traveled across the bridge to beat the Coronado Islanders 30-20.
Six weeks later on Nov. 28, the Islanders traveled to Santa Fe Christian for a rematch in the quarterfinals of the Div. 4 football playoffs and reversed the outcome, beating the eagles 35-20.
The Islanders now advance to the semifinals against top-seeded Valley Center.
The first time the two teams met, Santa Fe Christian gained an amazing 428 rushing yards with their wing-T offense. This time around, untimely mistakes and missed tackles by the Eagles, coupled with Coronado’s stingy defense, big plays and the play of senior quarterback Mason Mills, proved to be the difference.
“We got beat by a good team today,” Eagles Head Coach Brian Sipe said. “They have won nine games this season and their last five since we beat them in October.”
After stopping the Eagles on their first possession, Coronado on its second play from scrimmage, broke a big one. Mills threw a short pass to running back Keith Englehart, who broke Eagle tackles and rumbled down the sidelines for 76 yards before being caught from behind by defensive back Jarrod Watson-Lewis at the 8. Two plays later Mills connected on a 7-yard scoring pass to Englehart.
Christian Herrera’s point-after kick was blocked and the visitors were up 6-0.
During this series, Mills injured three fingers on his throwing hand but continued to play. Coming into the game, Mills - one of the top quarterbacks in the county - had thrown for 2,370 yards with 33 touchdowns and only four interceptions.
“I just taped my three fingers,” Mason said. “My offensive line did a phenomenal job giving me time to throw throughout the game.”
The Eagles came back on a four-play drive, capped by a 39-yard pass from quarterback Ryan Moore to running back Sam Hoekstra. Brock Miller’s point-after kick was successful and the Eagles led 7-6.
Coronado came right back and scored with 13 seconds left in the first quarter. In another of the team’s big plays, Mills threw a short-screen pass to running back Chris Page, who rambled 73 yards to pay dirt. Herrera’s kick was good as Coronado went up 13-7.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Eagles had a big-gainer of their own as Sam Hoekstra returned it 84 yards to the Coronado 11 to end the first quarter. Two plays into the second quarter, Brice Heers scored on a 1-yard plunge. Usually sure-footed Brock Miller’s kick hit the goal post and was no good and the game was knotted at 13-13.
The long-yardage plays continued on the kickoff as Englehart caught the ball on his 2-yard line and ran for a 98-yard score thanks to some missed Eagle tackles. On the point-after try, Englehart’s brother Kodie faked the hold and ran into the end zone for a 2-point conversion to put his team up 21-13.
The Eagles would later miss an opportunity to score with first and goal as Islander Brad Hughes recovered a fumble and - right before the half - Miller attempted a 39-yard field goal that was unsuccessful.
After receiving the ball to start the third quarter, yet another big play by Coronado put the Eagles in a hole again. Islanders running back Chris Page ran up the middle and cut to the outside for a 72-yard touchdown run. Herrera’s kick made it 28-13.
The first in a series of turnovers for Coronado came when Michael Tomayko intercepted a Mills pass. But the Eagles couldn’t capitalize on the turnover.
Brice Heers later picked off a second interception thrown by Mills, but it wasn’t enough for the Eagles.
Starting the fourth quarter, Coronado committed their third turnover, as Eagle Ryan Moore - who plays both offense and defense - recovered a Mills fumble as the effects of the quarterback’s hand injury was coming into play. This time the Eagles did take advantage and scored on a Trent Von Yokes 3-yard run. Miller’s kick made it 28-20.
With 4:01 left in the game, Mason Mills iced it for the Islanders, scoring on a keeper from four yards out.
“I’ve never thrown two interceptions in a game,” Mills said, “but it happened today. Our defense was great, because Santa Fe just kept coming back and only scored once on our four turnovers.” Mills finished 14-for-18 for 285 yards, two touchdown passes, and one rushing score.
“Mason was outstanding,” Coronado Head Coach Bud Mayfield said. “Having that injury and completing those passes, and willing our team to victory. Our defense was also great today. We beat a fine Santa Fe Christian team.”