GARDEN GROVE — As Costa Mesa High prepared for its game on Saturday night, a bounce house stood out behind the north end zone. It wasn't too late for the Mustangs to have fun.
They earned the right to jump around after defeating Santiago, 24-6, at Garden Grove High. The Mustangs celebrated their first win of the season.
Nevertheless, the Mustangs (1-1) didn't leave the field without some concern. They lost standout Oronde Crenshaw in the second quarter to an injury.
Coach Wally Grant said his tailback hurt an already-injured right Achilles' heel 2 1/2 minutes into the second quarter after he hurdled over a pile near the opponent's five-yard line.
Crenshaw left the field on his own feet and didn't return to play linebacker on defense. He came back on offense, but he ran gingerly. He carried the ball twice on the Mustangs' next drive, giving him exactly 100 yards rushing.
After 16 carries, his night was over. Crenshaw watched fullback Will Padilla pound his way into the end zone from six yards out. The Mustangs took a 17-0 lead with 4:40 left before halftime.
There wouldn't be much scoring after that. Grant said he felt no need to bring Crenshaw back in the second half.
"We need him for [Orange Coast League play]," said Grant, whose team has three more nonleague games before it opens league play against rival Estancia on Oct. 11. "He got his work in and that's all we needed to do."
Costa Mesa was on its way to beating Santiago for the third straight year. The defense led the way as it ended three first-half Santiago drives near the red zone by recovering two fumbles and intercepting one pass.
Crenshaw forced the first fumble, jarring the ball out of running back Michael Arteaga's arms with 89 seconds left in the opening quarter. Safety Oliver Ferris dived onto the ball on the 22. The fumble was the first of two by Arteaga.
The Cavaliers (0-2) fumbled three times, two of which defensive end Edgar Molina pounced on for Costa Mesa. They also had passes picked off by defensive backs Daniel Lawrence and Cameron Curet. The turnovers came whenever Santiago got into Costa Mesa territory.
The Cavaliers' stumbles began before the game. Their bus showed up late to Santiago's campus to pick up the Cavaliers for the game at Garden Grove. Players had jumped in cars by the time the bus arrived. Once they made it to the stadium, it was an hour before kickoff.
The only thing Santiago got right was not kicking off the ball to Crenshaw on the opening kickoff. In the Mustangs' season opener last week, he returned three kickoffs for touchdowns.
Crenshaw got his touches on the game's opening drive. He rushed seven times during the 11-play, 64-yard scoring drive that ended with him finding the end zone on a two-yard run.
The right side is where Crenshaw recorded most of his yards. When he went left, that's when the Cavaliers contained him. A run to the left is also where Crenshaw went down early in the second quarter. After he exited, Costa Mesa settled for a 22-yard field goal by Curet.
The Mustangs didn't have to score much as their defense blanked Santiago for almost the entire game, an impressive feat considering the defense was without Crenshaw and linebacker Quinton Bell, who missed his second straight game with a hip-flexor injury.
Santiago's only score came on the last play: a 15-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Andy Tang to wide receiver Franklin San Nicolas. With the clock showing zeros, the Cavaliers didn't attempt the conversion.
Crenshaw walked back onto the field with his teammates. He was the only Costa Mesa player not bouncing around.
"He's walking around without limping," Grant said when asked if Crenshaw will be available for the Mustangs' home game against Katella on Saturday at Jim Scott Stadium. "I don't see why he wouldn't play."*
Costa Mesa 24, Santiago 6