Royals defense leads way in beating Nordhoff

San Marcos' special teams and defense excelled in Thursday night's win. (Presidio Sports Photo)

San Marcos’ special teams and defense excelled in Thursday night’s win. (Presidio Sports Photo)

The San Marcos Royals forced three turnovers and sparked a second half comeback to beat the visiting Nordhoff Rangers 17-6 on Thursday night.

It was the Royals’ first game with three interceptions in ten years.

After the game, head coach Anthony Linebaugh held up a brick to symbolize his team’s identity. “This is a blue collar team. We don’t have 6’5” guys on the line,” Linebaugh said. “We have to work hard to be successful”.

The Royals avenged last year’s 48-7 throttling by Nordhoff in front of their homecoming crowd. “It’s easy to get up for a good opponent,” Linebaugh said. “It wasn’t difficult to get the guys focused and on task this week.”

The San Marcos defense stole the show in the first half. Despite giving up 76 yards on Nordhoff’s opening drive, the Royals’ defensive unit dropped its anchor on the 4-yard line and held the Rangers to a field goal.

Nordhoff’s opening drive would be its longest of the entire night.

After a botched punt midway through the first quarter, the Royals’ defense took the field within its own 10-yard line. San Marcos was able to keep the Rangers’ offense out of the end zone again, forcing a field goal to only be down 6-0 in the first quarter.

The San Marcos defense held Nordhoff scoreless in the second quarter.

As the first half continued the San Marcos defense only got better. The Royals’ defensive backfield played excellently in one-on-one coverage. The hard-nosed unit held Nordhoff’s no-huddle attack to only two complete passes out of fourteen attempts in the first half.

When the Royals’ defense wasn’t forcing punts, it was forcing turnovers.

Cornerback Marco Valdivia perfectly timed a Ranger’s pass and picked it off midway through the second quarter.

Not to be outdone, the Royals’ defensive line pressured the Nordhoff offense all night. Late in the second quarter, Royals linebacker Nathan Coffey sacked Rangers’ quarterback Baylee Rodgers for a loss of 10 yards.

Towards the end of the first half, San Marcos would step up again. Inri Cortez picked off another Nordhoff pass on the Royals’ own 19-yard line to halt yet another Rangers’ drive and keep the Rangers up only 6-3 at halftime.

The standout Cortez was also effective on special teams and as a running back. A 42-yard kick return by Cortez set up a San Marcos field goal early in the second quarter.

It would be the team’s only points in the first half.

The San Marcos offense matched its defense’s intensity in the second half, scoring 14 unanswered points. The Royals’ offense rode the thunder/lightning running back tandem of Ivan Reyes and Cortez after halftime, executing a 78-yard scoring drive early in the third quarter to go up 10-7.

The Royals ran the ball ten straight times during their scoring drive.

“We thought that if we were having success there, then there was no need to change things up,” Linebaugh said.

The duo of Reyes and Cortez looked unstoppable at times, combining for 161 rushing yards and one touchdown apiece in the second half alone.

Linebaugh had praise for both running backs, but also credited the offensive line. “They work hard, but they still credit the offensive line,” he said. “Those guys up front are going to take us as far as we’re going to go.”

The Royals’ defense maintained a relentless presence throughout the entire game. Two sacks by Sam Charest and Juan Guevara late in the game helped solidify the 17-6 victory.

Linebaugh named his team’s fitness level to explain the consistent intensity.

“One of our goals is never to lose a game because of conditioning”, he said. “These are times when the guys appreciate it”.

Coach Linebaugh thought the win was a great momentum boost as the Royals look to enter Channel League play soon. “I think it’s exactly what we needed to spur us on. This is a win that could really help our program”.

San Marcos has a bye week next, but will face a real test on October 17 when they take on Ventura.

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