June 15, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Dominating running by Ryan McKevitt powers Laguna Hills past Santa Ana

Laguna Hills junior running back Ryan McKevitt breaks loose in the first play of scrimmage of the second half for a long touchdown run for the Hawks. (Photos: Fernando M. Donado, For OC Sports Zone.)

Laguna Hills running back Ryan McKevitt set a personal career-high in rushing and touchdowns in a single game as he led the Hawks to a 23-12 non-league victory over Santa Ana Friday night at Santa Ana Stadium. 

McKevitt carried the ball 23 times for 271 yards and scored three TDs as Laguna Hills, the defending CIF Division 7 champion and Division 3A California State champion, improved its record to 2-0.

McKevitt had five runs for 20 or more yards and scored on the Hawks first plays in both halves. The 5-8 junior running back has rushed for 431 yards in the first two games of the season.   

“I think when we get long scoring runs like that we all get jacked up and it gives us so much more energy,” said McKevitt. “I love our offensive linemen (Chase Reisner, Andrew Azadi, Jack Tennant, Austin Dignan, Orin Qimid and Mason Fromm).”

McKevitt accounted for 271 of the Hawks 346 yards in the game. He left the game with leg cramps at the 4:51 mark of the fourth quarter and did not return. He said he was OK after the game and was held out as a precaution.    

Hawks center Chase Reisner said the team is clicking.

“Our communication is excellent; we’re all on the same page and we followed our game plan and executed our assignments,” said Reisner, a 215 pound senior.

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

After stopping the Saints on their opening series, McKevitt blasted off tackle and raced 69-yards for a touchdown, giving Laguna Hills a 6-0 lead at the 8:12 mark of the first quarter.

Later in the quarter, McKevitt broke off a 38-yard run to the Saints 35-yard line. Five plays later, he scored his second TD of the game as the Hawks increased their lead to 13-0 with 25 seconds left in the quarter. Midway through the second quarter, Luke Whitfield kicked a 38-yard field goal and Laguna Hills took a 16-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Santa Ana’s offense sputtered in the opening quarter but the Saints rebounded and drove into Hawks territory twice in the second quarter, but failed to get on the scoreboard. Laguna Hills outgained Santa Ana 186-73 in the first half.    

For good measure, McKevitt scored his third TD of the game on the opening play of the third quarter as he outran the Saints defense on a 75-yard run, upping Laguna Hills lead to 23-0.

But Santa Ana didn’t quit.

Saints running back Charles Hughes got Santa Ana onto the scoreboard on an 8-yard touchdown midway through the third quarter to cut the lead to 23-6. The Saints (1-1) inched closer as Sergio Torres tossed a 31-yard TD pass to Christian Ramos on the second play of the fourth quarter, trimming the lead to 23-12.

Aside from McKevitt’s long second half TD run, the Santa Ana defense stiffened but the Saints offense failed to move the ball on their final two drives of the game. Jake Minotta intercepted a Santa Ana pass late in the fourth quarter to foil Santa Ana’s comeback hopes.

“We played an excellent second-half and outplayed them 12-7; I’m proud the way our guys battled to the end,” said Saints Coach Rory Schoonmaker. “This was a quality caliber team we competed against. Our kids will learn more from this loss and continue to improve. Tonight will be a measuring stick for us to see where we are at.”

Laguna Hills Coach John Lester said he was happy to win but there is room for improvement.

“We ran the ball well and our offensive line and our defense played well, especially our dbacks,” said Lester. “We had some conditioning issues this week with guys sick and I think we got fatigued in the fourth quarter, but we’re 2-0.”

Torres completed 15 passes for 134 yards and a TD and Ramos caught six passes for 77 yards a TD for the Saints.

NOTE:

The entire Laguna Hills team gathered around defensive end (Air Force commit) Nate Hoss, following the game, and sang happy birthday to him as they jokingly pushed him around.  

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—Tom Connolly, For OC Sports Zone