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By Zach Cavanagh

SANTA ANA – This Dana Hills football team is making 3-0 look easy, but the Dolphins program knows that mark isn’t as easy to achieve as they made it look on Thursday night.

Dana Hills sophomore quarterback Bo Kelly threw for four touchdowns, and senior Liam Boersma helped the defense hold Saddleback to just 31 yards of offense in the first half as the Dolphins rolled to a win, 50-7, in a nonleague game at Segerstrom High School.

Dana Hills improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2004.

“It’s been a long hard road to get here,” Dana Hills coach Phil Skinner, who has been in the program since 2006, said. “There’s been a foundation that’s been laid by Dolphins in the past. When football was hard and nobody wanted to be a part of it, we had kids that persevered and played and got us going and kept building this program to where we’re starting to take stepping stones and getting W’s on the right side of the board.”

The Dolphins already matched last season’s win total in an overtime victory over Northwood at Dana Hills last Friday, and this third win matches the most wins in a season since 2013. The Dolphins went 3-7 in 2017 and last won more than that in a 5-5 regular season in 2013 that culminated with Dana Hills’ last trip to the CIF-SS playoffs.

The Dolphins’ tremendous start here in 2019 has already invigorated a renewed optimism at Dana Hills High School.

“Now with energy around the halls, everybody is starting to pick their heads up,” sophomore quarterback Bo Kelly said. “Especially after our home game win (last week against Northwood), it really helped our self-esteem. We have confidence. After this win, the energy is going to be so different around campus.”

The Dolphins get a chance to ride that on-campus energy again next Friday, Sept. 13 when Dana Hills hosts Laguna Beach in the program’s annual Honor the Valor game, a tribute to military veterans.

On Thursday night, the winning effort once again began with the Dana Hills defense.

Senior defensive end Liam Boersma led the Dolphins’ self-proclaimed “Power Rangers” unit up front with 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a blocked punt which set up Dana Hills’ first score.

Dana Hills held Saddleback to just 31 yards of offense in the first half and forced five three-and-outs in the opening half.

Two plays after Boersma’s blocked punt, Trevor Gartlan ran in his first of three total touchdowns with a 12-yard burst. Gartlan carried the ball 10 times for 58 yards and two touchdown runs and caught a touchdown early in the second half.

Three plays after Boersma’s sack and forced fumble later in the quarter, Kelly threw the first of his four touchdown passes and the first of two TD receptions by Noah Simpson on a 35-yard catch-and-run.

Tristan Vanderlinde concluded Dana Hills’ next drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 21-0 lead with one minute remaining in the opening quarter.

Boersma recovered a fumble on the first play of Saddleback’s next drive, and three plays later, it was Kelly to Simpson again on a 10-yard TD pass for a 27-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Dana Hills didn’t start a drive outside of Saddleback territory until the second quarter when a long kick return moved the Roadrunners up the field. Following another three-and-out by Saddleback, Dana Hills started at its own 19-yard line.

Kian Afrookhteh ended the drive with a 30-yard field goal for the 30-0 lead.

Gartlan pushed through a 15-yard touchdown run at the end of the quarter for a 37-0 halftime lead.

Saddleback botched the punt snap on its opening drive of the second half, and Gartlan added his third score on a 15-yard swing pass from Kelly for a 44-0 lead.

Saddleback finally broke through at the end of the third quarter with a 3-yard TD run.

Dana Hills tacked on one more score with a 75-yard touchdown bomb from Kelly to Kellan McGrath in the final seconds for the 50-7 final score. Skinner said that wasn’t a called play from the sidelines.


Zach Cavanagh
Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is a California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports.

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