Star linebacker Blaze Iglesias wasn’t expected to play in the Southern California Bowl.
At kickoff, he was in street clothes due to an injury in SAC’s last game. But after the first half, he shocked his team by walking out of the locker room with pads on, ready for battle.
Going into halftime, Santa Ana was only up three — too close for comfort for Iglesias.
“We ain’t fucking losing,” Iglesias told his teammates when he came out of the locker room.
On Sunday night the Santa Ana Dons defeated the College of the Desert Roadrunners 56-48 in the Southern California Bowl Championship, their first bowl win in over a decade.
These two teams had faced off only eight days prior, ending up in a Santa Ana 21-point win. However, this game was a bit more interesting.
The Dons started off the first quarter strong with their first two drives ending in mirrored results, a touchdown pass from Beck Moss to Malachi Pierce, one for 19 yards, the other for 45.
The two teams would continue to trade blows for the rest of the first half, with Santa Ana up 28-25 at the break.
At this point, Iglesias knew what he had to do. He went home.
“I just saw my brothers out there. It was a close game and everyone calls me a difference maker, so I went home to grab my pads and go ball out for my team,” he said.
A difference maker he was. On his first defensive snap, he forced a tackle for loss. He went on to get his 10th sack of the year later in the game.
In the third quarter alone, Owen Smith, Cannon King, and Malachi Pierce all scored touchdowns. Pierce tied a school record with four touchdown receptions throughout this game.
Santa Ana running backs Owen Smith and Jackson Smith each had over 100 yards, while wide receivers Pierce and King both added over 100 receiving yards. At 219 yards, Pierce was only 25 yards short of the school record.
The offense would total 726 yards, 320 rushing and 406 passing. It was a two-headed attack at the quarterback position, with Beck Moss and Dallen Engemann alternating drives, throwing six combined touchdowns.
In the dying moments of the game, Iglesias had one more big play in him. He blocked a kick attempt from Desert, giving Santa Ana an eight-point lead.
The Dons took advantage of his spark. They defeated the Roadrunners for the Southern California Bowl Championship, ending the season 9-2.
“I’m really thankful for all my friends who turned into family,” Engemann said. “We started out with so many guys and lost a few but this is how we came out and we fought to the end.”
This is the Dons’ first bowl game championship since 2012, and their first championship under head coach Anthony White. Unfortunately Coach White wasn’t able to make it to the game due to health issues, but his son Anthony White II was there to provide support for his dad’s team.
“Absolutely unbelievable season,” said Coach James Guglielmana. “We couldn’t have done it without the motivation and inspiration from Coach White. Coach White means so much to all of us and we just kept fighting because he was fighting, so we really tried to channel his spirit.”