June 15, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Charles Hughes helps Santa Ana bounce back with win over Garden Grove

Santa Ana running back Charles Hughes breaks away from Garden Grove linebacker Quentin Pacheli and scores his second touchdown of the game. (Photos: Fernando M. Donado, For OC Sports Zone.)

Santa Ana High’s running back/safety Charles Hughes scored three touchdowns to lift the Saints to a 41-21 nonleague victory over Garden Grove Friday night at Santa Ana Stadium.

After a tough loss to Laguna Hills last week, Santa Ana’s offense and defense played much better and improved its record to 2-1. The Argonauts dropped to 1-2. 

Hughes scored on runs of 10 and five yards and returned an interception for a TD.

“This win is an ego builder,” said Hughes, who rushed for 100 yards on 17 carries. “The key was the offensive line and we all played more disciplined tonight. This win will build our confidence.”

Four plays after fumbling an excellent scoring opportunity deep in Argonauts territory, Hughes picked off a Garden Grove pass and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown, giving the Saints a 7-0 lead at the 2:21 mark of the opening quarter.

To see the slide show, click on the first photo:

The Argonauts countered on their ensuing possession, marching 61 yards in six-plays, capped off by a perfectly thrown touchdown pass from quarterback Branden Roth to tight end Jonathan Loek on a fourth-down play to tie the score at 7-7 with 11:01 remaining in the second quarter.  

Both teams committed two turnovers in the first half and each were flagged several times. The Argonauts second miscue of the game also proved costly as the Saints recovered a fumbled punt at the Garden Grove 37-yard line with less than two minutes to play in the half.

Hughes ripped off a big run to the one-yard line (earlier, he had a 73-yard run nullified by a penalty) to set up the score. Two plays later, quarterback Sergio Torres raced into the end zone for a touchdown, however the PAT was blocked and Santa Ana led 13-7 at the half. 

Garden Grove running back Pablo Reyes, one of the leading rushers in Orange County, showcased his talents as the senior ran for 103 yards on 10 carries in the first half and finished with 122 yards in the game. The Argonauts outgained the Saints 197-125 in the first half.

Adrian Sanchez electrified the Santa Ana home crowd with a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the second half, upping the Saints lead to 20-7.

“The blocking was great and it feels amazing to score a touchdown on a kickoff return,” said Sanchez, who also caught three passes in the game. “I felt like it helped changed the tide of the game.”

Santa Ana’s defense forced a third Garden Grove turnover in the third quarter, an interception by Ruben Guerrero at the Argonauts 34-yard line. Five plays later, Hughes scored on a 10-yard TD run, increasing the Saints lead to 27-7.

Santa Ana’s defense, led by Troy Alvarez, Jose “Jr.” Martinez, Joshua Sandoval, Ignacio Marin  and Brian Sanchez were outstanding.

“The defensive line played really well and we all were better focused tonight,” said Alvarez, a freshman defensive lineman.

Roth tossed a pair of TD passes to Eric Fernandez in the second-half, but Garden Grove’s comeback bid fell short. After returning from leg cramps in the third-quarter, Hughes added his third touchdown of the game in the fourth-quarter on a short TD run as the Saints cruised to victory.

Roth passed for 158 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Argonauts. He also rushed for 70 yards. Gabriel Ramirez Flores added a fourth-quarter TD run for the Saints.    

“Our defense and our special teams didn’t play well and when you play decent teams you can’t win games playing like that,” said Garden Grove Coach Ricardo Cepeda. “We need our defense and our special teams to play much better.”

Saints coach Rory Schoonmaker was happy with the win, but he said there is still improvement to be made.

“Overall, we played better tonight; the offensive line played well,” said Saints first-year coach Schoonmaker. “I like the way we grinded it out, but we made critical mistakes in coverages. We play three very good quarterbacks over the next three weeks and we still have work to do to improve. We watched film from last week’s game, and we pointed out some mistakes and the kids understand what they have to do better. There was more focus and energy this week in practice and we got healthier.”

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—Tom Connolly, For OC Sports Zone