In the offseason, Oronde Crenshaw ran from his house near Costa Mesa High to a campus across town. The trip is one he made every other weekend.
The 3.1-mile run led him to Jim Scott Stadium, on the campus of rival Estancia. When he arrived, the site reminded him of the one football team he and Costa Mesa failed to beat in the last three years in Orange Coast League play.
Crenshaw returned to the stadium on Friday night to face that team one last time before he graduates. A bus brought Crenshaw, saving his legs for the contest.
With his nagging right foot injuries, Crenshaw needed the lift.
Once on the field, Crenshaw ran determined. The senior carried Costa Mesa past the Eagles, 31-18, as it claimed the Battle for the Bell game for the first time in four years.
Finally, Crenshaw earned the right to ring the trophy. He wasn't the only one to celebrate after the 47th edition of the crosstown rivalry game. His teammates rang it loudly after taking the league opener.
Each ring played over the PA system for the whole town to hear. Costa Mesa is the city champion, just in case you didn't make it to the game.
"It's the best feeling in the world right now," said Crenshaw, who put on a hat that read, "Battle for the Bell" on top and "MESA City CHAMPS 2013" below.
"That's what we are, city champs," Crenshaw said, "and we're running to be league champs."
Crenshaw turned in a gutty performance, rushing 35 times for 214 yards and one touchdown. Without his effort, Wally Grant doesn't lead the Mustangs (3-3, 1-0 in league) to their first win against Estancia in his three years at the helm.
This triumph meant a lot to Grant, who when he attended to Costa Mesa, his school never defeated the Eagles. These current Mustangs made sure they didn't drop four in a row to Estancia as Grant did before he graduated in 1983.
"Look around," Grant said, looking at his players jumping and down. "It's all these kids."
The road to victory began wherever Crenshaw went, wherever his offensive line paved the way. It all started on the game's opening drive in which Crenshaw rushed nine times for 50 yards, moving the chains four times.
When the Mustangs reached the Eagles' four, they gave it to fullback Will Padilla. He plowed his way into the end zone for the first of his two touchdowns on the evening. The Mustangs grabbed a 6-0 lead, and unlike last year, they never relinquished it.
By halftime, Crenshaw rushed 24 times for 175 yards and one touchdown. He totaled 59 more yards than Estancia's offense in the first half.
His first scoring chance came 1 1/2 minutes into the second quarter. On a fourth-and-one play on the opponent's 10-yard line, the Mustangs called Crenshaw's number. He got more than a first down as he found the end zone. Because the Mustangs missed the extra-point kick on their first scoring drive, they decided to go for two points. Crenshaw's two-point conversion run gave Costa Mesa a 14-0 lead with 10:20 left before halftime.
Seventy-seven seconds later, Crenshaw almost ripped off a second touchdown run. If not for defensive back Dylan Laurent tripping up Crenshaw inside the Eagles' 30-yard line, Crenshaw breaks an 81-yard touchdown run. Instead, the run went for 53 yards.
With Crenshaw needing a breather after his 19th carry, the Mustangs offense stalled, turning the ball over on downs on the 25-yard line. This marked the first of two times the Mustangs went for it on fourth down and failed to get a first down.
Each time Estancia took advantage and produced touchdowns.
"We had a chance to go up, 21-0, and end the game [in the first half], and we didn't," Grant said. "[The Eagles] battled back."
The visitors certainly made it a game. Their gaffes came after the first touchdown, a penalty made a routine extra-point kick into a 26-yard attempt. The Eagles (2-4, 0-1) missed the PAT, forcing them to go for two points after their second touchdown late in the third quarter.
The pass play, trying to tie the game at 14, never made it to the intended Estancia receiver. Defensive backs Daniel Lawrence and Jason Garcia broke up the pass, allowing the Mustangs to stay ahead, 14-12.
Costa Mesa responded on the ensuing kickoff. The team went to its workhorse, and then Crenshaw cramped up. He exited the game after a 21-yard run put him above 200 yards.
Crenshaw returned and the Mustangs managed to push their lead to 17-12 on Cameron Curet's 27-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. The Mustangs made it a 24-12 lead a couple of minutes later.
Quinton Bell, a linebacker, intercepted a tipped pass near midfield and returned it for a touchdown. The Mustangs appeared on their way to ending the Eagles' three-year reign in the Battle for the Bell.
They needed to keep playing because Estancia quarterback Connor Brown threw his second touchdown pass. The Eagles trailed by six with 5:23 left.
That's as close as they got.
Even with Crenshaw hobbling after a run, forcing him to leave the game, the Mustangs took care of business. As Crenshaw sat on the trainer's table, Padilla rushed for a 15-yard touchdown, putting away the Eagles.
Crenshaw looked on. Even in his condition, on a bad ankle and dealing with cramps, he ran onto the field one more time. This time with his arms raised.
Orange Coast League
Costa Mesa 31, Estancia 18
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Estancia 0 – 6 – 6 – 6 – 18
Costa Mesa 6 – 8 – 0 – 17 – 31
CM – Padilla 4 run (kick failed), 7:49.
CM – Crenshaw 10 run (Crenshaw run), 10:20.
E – Brown 3 run (kick failed), 1:41.
E – Urquiza 12 pass from Brown (pass failed), 2:20.
CM – Curet 27 FG, 10:02.
CM – Bell 49 interception return (Curet kick), 8:17.
E – Jackson 10 pass from Brown (run failed), 5:23.
CM – Padilla 15 run (Curet kick), 2:46.
E – C. Laurent, 31-146.
CM - Crenshaw, 35-214, 1 TD.
E - Brown, 10-21-1, 102, 2 TDs.
CM - Ferris, 5-13-0, 53.
E – Jackson, 3-57, 1 TD.
CM – Bell, 4-33.