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Eagles soar to title

Battle for the Bell

Behind Murtha's heroics on the ground, Estancia defeats Costa Mesa to improve to 26-18-1 in storied rivalry, winning Orange Coast League title in the process.

November 11, 2011|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza
  • Estancia celebrates after defeating Costa Mesa in a Battle for the Bell. The victory also clinched an undefeated league championship for the Eagles.
Estancia celebrates after defeating Costa Mesa in a Battle… (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

COSTA MESA — The high school football rivalry began 45 years ago, on a different field than the one Costa Mesa and Estancia played on Friday night.

In the previous contests, the two programs never played for what they met for in the regular-season finale at Jim Scott Stadium.

Estancia and Costa Mesa played for a league title.

Winner claims the Orange Coast League title, the Battle for the Bell and eats ribs. The Eagles made history, as they wrapped up back-to-back undefeated league titles for the first time with a 28-14 victory.

The way Estancia (8-2, 5-0 in league), ranked No. 4 in the CIF Southern Section Southern Division, pulled it off was impressive.

"Physically, they just whooped us," said Costa Mesa Coach Wally Grant, in his first year in charge of his alma mater.

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The Eagles ended the Mustangs' eight-game winning streak in the biggest matchup in town.

Costa Mesa's Mario Smith was the tailback who stole the headlines a week ago with a 359-yard, seven-touchdown performance on the ground.

This week, in the game with more at stake for the Mustangs (8-2, 4-1), it was Estancia running back Robert Murtha with the gaudy yards. The junior rushed for 276 yards and one touchdown on 24 carries.

Murtha's score broke a 14-14 tie midway through the third quarter. No one could take down Murtha, who went right before cutting back inside. He exploded and was gone just like that for an 84-yard touchdown.

"The guy never stopped and never gave up," Estancia Coach Mike Bargas said.

"They've got a great running back. If we're able to contain him, I thought we had the victory."

The Eagles more than contained Smith, they knocked him out of the game, allowing Bargas to win his third league title in his five years at Estancia.

With less than four minutes into the fourth quarter, Smith was done. He fumbled for the second time and linebacker Ozzy Magana returned it 24 yards for a touchdown.

The Eagles' lead grew to 28-14. Grant said Smith's night ended because of a shoulder injury. And there went the Mustangs' best chance to get back in the game.

"We've gotten a lot of mileage out of him," Grant said of Smith, who has rushed for 1,913 yards and 28 touchdowns on 175 carries this season. [Friday night], there was just nothing left in the tank for him."

Smith took his pads off on the sideline and watched the rest of the way as Estancia now leads the series against Costa Mesa, 26-18-1. He finished with a season-low 71 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries.

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