first-round contest against host Linfield Christian at 7 p.m. The
game marks the first CIF appearance for a Lightning football team.
One of the keys to the turnaround from last season's 1-8 finish
are improved offensive and defensive performances when it comes to
the running game.
A contributor to both offense and defense has been
fullback/linebacker Don Ayres.
"Don has been a solid player for us on both sides of the ball all
year," Coach Tom Monarch said. "He is a great tackler and a great
blocker and runner."
Ayres finished with 112 rushing yards and one touchdown on a
team-high 20 carries against Capistrano Valley Christian Friday. The
sophomore also intercepted a pass late in the fourth quarter to seal
the Lightning's 24-12 win, which gave Sage its first ever Academy
For his efforts, Ayres has been named the Daily Pilot Athlete of
the Week. But Ayres does not think his efforts were the deciding
factor in the outcome.
"Our O-line won that game," Ayres said. "They dominated [Capo
Valley Christian's] D-line the whole game."
The Lightning rushed for 290 yards while Capo Valley amassed 171
"Our O-line opened up holes so [tailback] Keya [Manshadi] and I
could run," Ayres said. "I give all the credit to the line."
While the O-line does deserve some accolades, Ayres has shown he
has the necessary skill to receive praise.
He leads the team with 998 rushing yards and 178 carries. He is
second on the team with 12 rushing touchdowns.
But Ayres deflects praise as skillfully as he deflects would-be
tacklers and would-be blockers. He would much rather talk about the
final win of the season.
"That was the greatest win of the whole season," he said. "It was
the fifth homecoming game we played. Half of our games this year have
been in homecoming games. Other teams have challenged us this year to
their homecoming games, and we've won four of the five games.
Sage Hill defeated Fairmont, 35-0, in the Huskies' homecoming in
The Lightning beat Viewpoint, 31-6, in Sage's homecoming in Week
Sage Hill shut out Sherman Indian's homecoming, 14-0, in Week 7.
The only blemish was a 30-7 defeat during Brethren Christian's
homecoming in Week 8.
"It seemed like every week we found out we scheduled a homecoming
opponent," Ayres said. "At first I was kind of nervous to play in a
big game like that, but then I realized it was sort of like a slap in
the face. It started to really get our team motivated to play in
Ayres said beating Capo Valley Christian was extra special because
of the history between the two schools.
"Coach [Monarch] told us about how they threw a pass on us late in
the game two years ago even though they were up by 28 points," Ayres
said. "We knew were going to get them back for that and I think we
did. That was the best team to play to get our first ever Academy