HUNTINGTON BEACH — Sage Hill School football coach J.R. Tolver was not at his team's Academy League opener Thursday night, and it was totally understandable.
Tolver was expecting the birth of his child, a baby boy, said Sage defensive coordinator and acting head coach Greg Taylor.
"They induced today, so he had to end up leaving and going to the hospital down in San Diego," Taylor said. "He got the call when he was at school and took off earlier … we're a real good tight-knit family. We miss him, and we were hoping we could get the win for him; have the baby and get the win for him."
The Lightning fell a little short of the second goal. They lost to Brethren Christian, 42-13, at Ocean View High.
Turnovers were a problem for the Lightning (0-8). Brethren Christian (5-3) intercepted five Sage Hill passes. Brethren senior linebackers Austin Gorrell and Jacob Roque each returned an interception for a touchdown in the first half, which ended with the Warriors up, 27-0.
Gorrell also got into the end zone twice on the offensive end, on touchdown passes from junior quarterback Jack McInally. McInally, who had already established the school single-season record for touchdown passes at Brethren Christian, had three Thursday night to up his total to 28. Sage Hill junior linebacker Will Burns did get an interception on the first play of the fourth quarter, returning the ball 26 yards.
Sage scored its first touchdown on its first drive of the second half. On fourth-and-goal, sophomore quarterback CJ McCord found senior Zuriel Aaron on a 13-yard touchdown pass.
The Lightning couldn't score again until Joe Melita's touchdown run in the final seconds, as the game was being played with a running clock. Senior Thomas Fenner led Sage receivers with five catches for 77 yards.
"I think our kids didn't quit at all," Taylor said. "They continued to keep pushing and believing, and that's our whole thing with these guys. They're a young team. The quarterback's a sophomore. We've got a lot of young guys, and when you're going with young guys you're going to have these situations. Our biggest thing is teaching them how to overcome adversity and be consistent. I thought some of our penalties and turnovers kind of shot us in the foot, but for the most part, I thought we did a good job of containing them offensively.
"My thing was to make sure they didn't quit, and I thought they fought until the last minute."
Sage Hill, which was coming off a bye week, now faces an uphill climb to make the CIF Southern Section East Valley Division playoffs. The Lightning would likely have to win their final two league games against Crean Lutheran and rival St. Margaret's, which is ranked No. 3 in the division.
"This is probably the most healthy we've been thus far," Taylor said. "That bye week was much-needed. We got better and we practiced some things. This group is a work in progress; what you're seeing is a work in progress."
Brethren Christian 42, Sage Hill 13
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Sage Hill 0 – 0 – 6 – 7 — 13
Brethren 14 – 13– 8 – 7 — 42