Everything seemed perfect at halftime of Santa Margarita’s homecoming game.
Strobe lights lit up the field. Blue-and-gold streamers exploded as students clad in pristine suits and dresses stood on the sideline. It was the picturesque vision of Friday night lights — except for the ugly, two-touchdown deficit to Los Alamitos.
But the Eagles turned what could have been a disappointing homecoming into a magical one in the second half, reeling off three touchdowns in the span of five minutes to shift momentum and propel them to a 42-21 win.
“We came out slow, but we went in the locker room … we were so confident in what we were doing, confident in our coaches, confident in our offensive line that we could do it,” quarterback Jaxon Potter said.
On their first drive of the second half, after Potter marched the team down the field, the Eagles nonetheless faced a fourth and 11 and sent out their field-goal team. But an offsides penalty on Los Alamitos caused Santa Margarita coach Anthony Rouzier to reconsider, trotting Potter and the offense back onto the field, and the junior tossed a touchdown dart to senior Jalen Jones.
“We told the defense we were getting the ball at half, and we told them we were going to score. We needed to,” Potter said. “That was kind of the tempo-setter.”
Two plays later, a bad snap went right by Los Alamitos star quarterback Malachi Nelson. Eagles linebacker Jacob Bower scooped up the fumble and waltzed into the end zone to tie the score.
After Los Alamitos went three and out, junior tight end Niko Lopez leaped to snare a 27-yard bomb from Potter, and the Eagles had a 21-14 lead.
Potter had been consistently productive in the first four games of the season after transferring from San Juan Capistrano JSerra, with one interception, but he doubled that total in the first half.
In the second half, however, he drove Santa Margarita down the field time and again. With the score tied 21-21, he completed a fourth-and-six pass that kept the drive alive for freshman running back Taurian Nash to run in a touchdown.
After a 55-yard touchdown pass to Jones over the middle, Potter took a bow at midfield to the delight of the fans.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.