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Santa Margarita football flashes retooled offense, defense in scrimmage against Mission Viejo

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MISSION VIEJO — The changes are happening fast for Santa Margarita’s football team, and for at least one night the Eagles showed plenty of promise.

The Eagles’ revamped offensive and defensive units started fast Friday at Mission Viejo as the South County schools scrimmaged for one half.

Mission Viejo rallied for a 17-14 victory on a 35-yard field goal by Arizona commit Michael Salgado-Medina on the final play but Santa Margarita’s offense and defense — both subjects of offseason chatter — had their moments.

Santa Margarita ran the ball effectively early with sophomore Skylar Lendsey (5-10, 190), who capped the opening drive with a short TD run.

The Eagles also found success passing as new starting quarterback James Johnson tossed a long touchdown strike to junior Sean Embree Jr. (6-4, 175) to extend the lead to 14-0. The duo almost connected for another long TD later but the pass fell incomplete.

The offensive success from the emerging Lendsey and Embree arrived just days after news broke that the Robinson brothers — Jason, Jadyn and Skylar — had left Santa Margarita for San Juan Hills. Jason, a Washington commit, and Skylar were standout wide receivers at Long Beach Poly last season.

“They would have been a great addition to our team but,” Embree said, “we’re still doing great.”

Johnson also connected well with wide receiver Trent Mosley and Air Force-committed tight end Kyle Brody among others.

Santa Margarita coach Anthony Rouzier said the offense has shifted to more formations with one running back and one tight end compared to a spread attack with one back and four receivers.

“But we had that stuff in our arsenal,” he said of the changes. “The biggest thing is our offensive line just continues to come on. In this league, if you can’t run the ball, you’re in trouble.”

The Eagles’ defense, now led by new coordinator John Arredondo, deployed a new-look 3-4 front.

One visible change saw Nevada commit LeVar Talley of Santa Margarita move from the defensive end/edge position to outside linebacker. The senior teamed with Noah Sulick and Gage Burnett, who were the inside linebackers.

“They had a new defensive coordinator and we had no clue what they were going to run,” Mission Viejo coach Chad Johnson said.

“After the first couple of drives when we finally realized (the defense) wasn’t what we practiced for and we started adjusting our own game plan, we started rolling but in my opinion, it took us too long to adjust.”

The fine-tuning will continue next week as the teams prepare for their season openers on Aug. 18. Santa Margarita plays West of Utah at Saddleback College while Mission Viejo plays host to El Camino of Oceanside.

MISSION VIEJO QB UPDATE

Sophomore Luke Fahey and junior Draiden Trudeau each threw a touchdown as they continued to compete for Mission Viejo’s quarterback position.

Trudeau tossed a short TD over the middle to wide receiver Cash Semonza while Fahey connected on a short strike to running back Chase Valousky.

“We’re going to grade very single play today and evaluate,” Johnson said of the competition. “They really aren’t my concern. I think they played well. We have to get our offensive line healthy. … Hopefully when those guys come back, we’ll run the ball better.”

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