by Dan Albano
LONG BEACH — There can be prosperity after playing two of the best high school football teams in the nation in consecutive weeks.
Just ask Servite.
The Friars won their second straight game since the two-game gauntlet and took another major step toward a berth in the new, eight-team Division 1 playoffs by defeating Santa Margarita 27-0 before their homecoming crowd Thursday at Veterans Stadium.
In posting their first shutout, No. 2 Servite (6-3, 2-2) evened its record in the Trinity League and handed No. 13 Santa Margarita (3-6, 0-3) its second straight shutout.
The Friars, ranked fifth in CIF-SS Division 1, also kept their momentum after knocking off previously No. 2-ranked JSerra 34-21 last week.
“To get a shutout and win 27-0 after the three weeks we’ve been through is a really good win,” said Servite coach Troy Thomas, whose team opened the Trinity League with losses to St. John Bosco and Mater Dei, who duel Friday night in Bellflower.
“We played well. We did kind of what we’ve been doing. We made some mistakes that hurt us, but our kids play hard. They’re going to run around.
“They’re young. They make young mistakes sometimes that drive us crazy.”
Servite excelled offensively by answering the challenge that Santa Margarita offered, Thomas said. The Eagles dropped extra defenders into pass coverage to combat sizzling quarterback Noah Fifita.
The Friars responded by running the ball. Junior running back Kyle Bandy rushed for a season-high 154 yards on a season-high tying 17 carries and recorded one of three rushing touchdowns by Servite.
The brother of University of San Diego star wide receiver Michael Bandy (Servite), he showed excellent second and third effort on a 17-yard touchdown run that made it 20-0 with 4:48 left in the fourth quarter.
Derek Fuentes and Deville Fata each added rushing touchdowns for the Friars, who finished with 242 yards on the ground.
“They try to defend the deep ball and not let us get big plays so we just took advantage of that (running),” Bandy said.
Servite’s other standout was junior cornerback/wide receiver Noah Avinger, who nabbed his third interception of the season and caught a 40-yard TD from Fifita (160 yards) in the first half.
The junior intercepted a pass at his 25-yard line in the middle of the second quarter that Fuentes turned into a 1-yard TD run and 14-0 lead with 2:42 left in the half.
Avinger found himself wide open down the sideline earlier in the second period after Santa Margarita’s secondary jumped on a shorter route as the Friars opened a 7-0 lead. Avinger was ran a deep fade route.
“The corner jumped on the out route and I was wide open,” Avinger said.
The strike capped a seven-play, 88-yard scoring drive that started after an interception by Servite cornerback Daniel Bates at his goal line.
The Friars close out league play next week against Orange Lutheran.
“We need to get one more and then we hopefully get into the Division 1,” Thomas said. “That’s what we’re really shoot for. … There’s eight teams, and one of them has to win. I like those odds.”
Bates’ interception came after the Eagles ran 15 plays to move from their 10 after recovering a fumble on Servite’s opening drive.
The turnover arrived two plays after Santa Margarita had a touchdown called back because of a holding call, one of its few penalties.
Servite also had two touchdowns nullified on the same drive in the second half. But Santa Margarita endured more frustration.
On the heels of a 45-0 loss to Mater Dei, the Eagles opened the second half with a run-oriented, 21-play drive that consumed 10:50 only to have a 25-yard field goal blocked by Servite’s Jack Kane.
Nick Barcelos led Santa Margarita’s ground attack with 76 yards on 24 carries while versatile, junior wide receiver Michael Buckley had six catches for 35 yards and also for 28 yards on two carries.
“Our effort was good but we lost turnovers and lost in the red zone,” Santa Margarita coach Brent Vieselmeyer said. “We’ve gotten better. We just can’t make those costly penalties, costly mistakes.”
Zedakiah Centers led Servite’s wide receivers with four catches for 99 yards.