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San Diego, Belmont Shore Win Again in SoCal

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San Diego, Belmont Shore Win Again in SoCal

Andy Livingston on a line break with Spencer Huntley and Kai Caufield in support for San Diego.

San Diego Mustangs and Belmont Shore lead the Southern California Boys HS Club league with 3-0 records after both beat well-regarded opponents over the weekend.

Belmont Shore defeated Thunder 44-10, dropping Thunder to 1-2. It was another impressive showing from a Belmont Shore team that has blossomed in its ability to play fast and wide. In two games (one non-league) against what is a very good Thunder team, Belmont Shore has scored 95 points.

As for San Diego, the Mustangs held off a very tough SOC Raptors team 19-14 in a bit of a nailbiter.

The Mustangs had the early share of possession and eventually that led to points—a series of SOC penalties set up an attacking lineout and Mustang flanker Andy Livingston capped off a driving maul for the first try of the game. The Raptors replied several minutes later after a series of kicking exchanges led to a scrum on the Mustangs 22. SOC ran a planned move off the scrum and Keegan Hannon was in for the try, which he converted.

Just before halftime Mustangs once again forced SOC into some penalties. San Diego ran a move and Livingston got his second, powering over as part of a forward pod off the ruck. That made it 12-7 at halftime. San Diego did have another chance to score but the Raptors ended the half by holding the ball up in-goal.

In the second half the Raptors took the lead when No. 8 Clarence Chaney thundered through to touch down under the posts. Hannon converted and it was 14-12 for SOC.

Three minutes later SOC's Jake Bower kicked through and caught the Mustangs cover defender with ball in possession two meters from the tryline. Raptors' Blake Allen stole the ball and his teammates mauled it over, only for the play to be called back for a not-rolling-away penalty.

It was a momentum shift of pretty massive proportions. The Mustangs were able to get out of trouble, and once again when the Raptors were under pressure they started committing penalties. Finally San Diego scrumhalf Spencer Huntley saw Rocco Ballestieri in a good position, sent a well-executed skip pass to the big man and he was over. The conversion made it 19-14 for the Mustangs.

Both teams put everything into the final seven minutes, but the defenses held.

"In games like these it comes down to small margins, and decisions," said Raptors Head Coach Sam McMillan. "The Mustangs defense was very good all day, credit to them; we played isolated at times, which allowed turnovers. We will need to take a look at the film, we were on the wrong side of the penalty count—over 25—you do not win a close game with a penalty count like that."

"We didn't have our cleanest effort, but a lot of that credit goes to the Raptors' pressure," said San Diego Head Coach Ramon Samaniego. "Despite not having our best game in attack, we played just enough defense to come away with the victory."

SOC drops to 1-2 and 3rd in the five-team SoCal D1, with 1-1 Back Bay 4th and Thunder (1-2) in 5th.

Next weekend it's all on the table. San Diego plays Belmont Shore in a game that should decide the conference. SOC plays Thunder in a game that decides whether one will get an invitation to the Boys HS National Championships. Only three from SoCal are getting the invitation, and with two wins under their belts, San Diego and Belmont Shore are in.

"We have all to play for next weekend," said McMillan. "We control our path—similar situation as in 2022—and we know we will have to be ready for a very tough Thunder team, who will be motivated as we are. Games over the last three years have been decided by 3 or less points, so we will need to get the small things right and be ready to front up a big and physical Thunder team who are always well-coached."