After failing to see many of his plays go for positive yardage, it was difficult for Costa Mesa High football coach Wally Grant to be positive after his team's season opener Friday night at Jim Scott Stadium.
Northwood won the war in the trenches. Grant knows that will have to change going forward if the Mustangs are to contend this season, in league or otherwise.
Costa Mesa was held to just 60 yards of total offense as Northwood romped, 34-6, in the nonleague game.
The majority of those yards — 42 of them — came on the Mustangs' final offensive play, a touchdown run by junior Mason Mataafa. Before that, there wasn't too much for Costa Mesa fans to be excited about.
The Mustangs lost their unlucky 13th straight season opener, dating back to 2001. But that wasn't the first thing on Grant's mind after Friday night's game.
"We got physically manhandled up front, and that needs to be addressed and fixed before we do anything [going] forward," Grant said. "We learned a lot tonight … We're very young up front and it showed … The offensive line was horrible tonight.
"You've got to hand it to them. They physically beat us up. They didn't do anything that we didn't work on. They just physically beat us up."
Northwood sat its senior returner at quarterback, Brian Abel, because of what first-year head coach Dean Toohey called a coach's decision. The backup, junior Trevor Lawrence, performed well, completing 16 of 25 passes for 198 yards and a touchdown.
"I think he did a good job," Toohey said. "He started to get a rhythm in the second half, and that's when we started to move the ball a little bit more."
Before that, Lawrence also threw an interception. Mesa junior Sammy Swanson caught the deflected pass in the end zone with teammate Michael Diaz also in the vicinity, ending the Timberwolves' first drive of the game. But quarterback Swanson and the Mesa offense found the going tough against the Timberwolves, who consistently stacked the box to limit long runs by the Mustangs' physical back, Mataafa.
"I think we had a good scheme," said Toohey, a longtime Northwood assistant who was the defensive coordinator last year. "We knew that they weren't going to pass the ball a lot, so we had nine guys in the box most of the time. It's tough to run against that. I think our scheme is good. The point of emphasis for our guys was to be physical up front and dictate the line of scrimmage, and I think we did that."
The Mustangs were stout defensively for much of the first half, and trailed just 6-0 late in the second quarter. But Northwood was able to convert a fourth-and-24 pass play from Lawrence to Michael Bellas, gaining exactly 24 yards to the Mesa three-yard line.
Two plays later, Lawrence found junior receiver Andy Clyde for a touchdown, which gave the visitors a 13-0 lead with just 23 seconds left in the half.
Northwood then broke it open in the third quarter. After Josh Liu blocked a punt deep in Mustangs territory, he ran it in from three yards out three plays later.
The Timberwolves added a seven-yard touchdown pass to Clyde and a six-yard scamper from Liam Akiva, the latter play giving Northwood a 34-0 lead late in the third quarter.
"The defense did a heck of a job for being out there 40 of the 48 minutes," Grant said. "We were just out on the field way too long."
Costa Mesa will try to get its first win of the season next Friday night, when it plays Garden Grove Santiago back at Jim Scott Stadium. Santiago won against another Orange Coast League foe in its season opener, beating Godinez, 13-7.