The Santa Ana Dons lost a tough game against Mt. San Jacinto Eagles by a final score of 42-20 on Saturday, September 24. These two teams met in an inaugural matchup last year where the Eagles got the best of the Dons with a final score of 39-34. This was the second game ever between the two so the Eagles are undefeated against the Dons thus far.
The Dons highlight player of the game was sophomore receiver Kyran Hayes, who finished the game with five catches for 122 yards. He also scored a key touchdown which helped tie up the game at halftime. Hayes found success in the receiving game thanks to freshman quarterback Dallen Engemann, who threw 11 of 25 for 164 yards. He also threw two touchdowns as well as one interception. Sophomore quarterback Cesar Ayala also went 9 of 24 for 119 yards. Ayala also threw one touchdown as well as one interception.
Another highlight for the Dons was the defensive line, which had a field day in the pass rush, recording 12 sacks on the Eagles quarterback. Notable players on the defensive side were freshman defensive linemen Toa Moa and freshman linebacker Baden Tanikawa. Moa recorded 5 total tackles and 2.5 sacks which led the team. Tanikawa had 5 total tackles, half a sack, as well as the only defensive interception for the Dons.
The Dons defense made their presence known, holding the Eagles to only six points in the 1st quarter. The Dons answered back when sophomore quarterback Cesar Ayala found sophomore receiver Kristian Constantine for a 39-yard touchdown.
In the 2nd quarter, the Eagles started right where they left off in the 1st quarter, finding the endzone on two straight drives through the air. The passing game was highly utilized as that was the only way both teams found themselves in the endzone in the first half. Engemann was now starting to take the snaps and brought life to the offense, finding sophomore receiver Nicholas Frengel for a 28 yard touchdown. The very next drive, Engemann found Hayes on a quick slant route and broke free from the defense thanks to some good blocking from his teammates for the longest play for the Dons. The play went for a 56-yard touchdown. Going into the half, Hayes acknowledged that the energy the team brings reflects their output on the game.
“I would not say there is anything we are struggling with as a team, it’s all on the energy we bring,” said Hayes. “We expect to dominate in the second half, get a few touchdowns, and secure the victory as a team.”
At halftime, the teams were tied 20-20.
The Dons struggled to put up a single point in the second half and suffered many penalties on both the offensive and defensive sides. The Dons struggled to get any rhythm in the running game, ending the game with a total of 98 yards compared to the Eagles, who had 185 yards on the ground. The passing game showed promise throughout the game as the Dons finished with 290 yards through the air compared to the Eagles, who had 268 yards.
The Eagles defense made their presence known in the second half, forcing two interceptions and four out of the five sacks they had that night. Offensively, the Eagles found their footing in the rushing game, which helped them manage the clock as well as score three touchdowns which helped them secure the victory against the Dons. After the game, Head Coach Anthony White acknowledged that the Eagles were a tough team and that even though the team lost, he saw lots of promise from his players and how they are continuing to get better as a team.
“We did a lot of new things in this game, new guys playing, rotating more guys in the formations, as well as guys coming back from injury, so we are excited for that,” said White. “We are bringing in such a young team and getting so many reps early is important. We are playing a lot of veteran teams like the Eagles who went 10-1 last season and were conference champions. We knew that it was going to be tough going into this game and although we lost, we are getting better every week.”
The Dons now have a losing record of 0-4. The Dons look for their first win of the season as they travel to El Cajon on Saturday, Oct.1 to play the Grossmont Griffins, who have a record of 2-2. The Dons next home game will be against the LA Southwest Cougars who currently have a record of 0-4 Saturday, Oct.15.