The Santa Ana Dons lost a big rivalry game to the Fullerton Hornets by a final score of 56-7 on September 3. The two teams continued their historic rivalry, which has seen 99 Key to the County games against one another. With their most recent win, Fullerton now leads the all time series 52-34-4.
This was Fullerton’s third consecutive victory, including the 2021 season in which Santa Ana was forced to forfeit. The Dons last win against Fullerton was in 2018, in which Fullerton forfeited the game for CCCAA rule violations related to subsidizing.
Santa Ana’s MVP of the game was sophomore quarterback Ceasar Ayala, who finished 26 of 39 for 189 yards. He also finished with one touchdown and one interception. His quarterback rating was 76.5 out of 158.3. Ayala found the most success getting the ball to sophomore wide receiver Arthur Shaw, who finished with 10 catches for 53 yards. Shaw acknowledged that the offense had a lot of room for improvement.
“What we could improve on is lining up faster, getting on the ball faster, do our job, trust each other, and perform,” said Shaw. “That’s all it is, as long as we do that, everything should be fine for the next couple of games.”
The Dons defense struggled for the majority of the game, as the Hornets were able to catch the ball deep downfield and create plenty of space on their routes. Notable defenders for the game were freshman cornerback Aden Eckenwiler and freshman defensive lineman Mati Armstrong. Eckenwiler led the team in tackles with five. While Armstrong had one strip sack late in the 4th quarter that was recovered by the Hornets quarterback, resulting in a loss of eight yards.
The deep ball struck early and often, as the Hornets jumped out quickly to a 7-0 lead, two minutes into the game. They carried their momentum through the first quarter with a 22-0 lead, capped off by a fake extra point that seemingly deflated the Dons. By halftime the score was 32-0.
The Dons lone touchdown came in the 3rd quarter, as Ayala found sophomore wide receiver Kyran Hayes for a 15-yard touchdown near the front pylon in the endzone. Hayes made an impressive one handed catch while falling down with a defender in his face.
The Dons rushing game was also ineffective, as the Hornets front seven proved to be overwhelming from the start. Sophomore running back Jamiel Henning had five rushes for zero yards.
Meanwhile, Ayala was under heavy pressure for most of the game, taking away any opportunity for longer routes to develop downfield. However, Henning found success in the short passing game, as he caught 6 passes for 56 yards. Many of which were screen passes or flat routes to the sideline.
Santa Ana is coming off a successful 7-4 season that saw them make the postseason, but they ultimately fell short in a close game to Pasadena City. Looking ahead, the Dons are currently 0-3 and look to secure their first win of the season at home against the 2-1 Mt. Saint Jacinto Eagles.