1. What can you say about Santa Margarita quarterback Johnny Stanton? over the last five weeks, Servite couldn't stop him, Long Beach Poly couldn't stop him, Mission Viejo couldn't stop him, and San Clemente couldn't stop him. He may not even be the best quarterback in Orange County -- El Toro's Conner Manning certainly looks the part with more than 4,000 yards and 41 touchdowns -- but Stanton is the player of the year in Orange County.
2. Myron Miller has been coaching for 42 years, but Tustin's 35-28 Southwest Division victory Saturday afternoon in an upset of third-seeded El Toro was his first outright championship in seven finals appearances. He tied for one while at Ramona in the San Diego Section, but lost in the final at Costa Mesa and three times at Tustin before riding a physical defense and a ball control offense to victory at Angel Stadium. Edward Tandy's interception for a touchdown was huge, as were a pair of scores by Terence Martinez and Tyler Siudzinski. But you really have to admire Miller's commitment to his team; twice on the final five minutes -- in an effort to keep the ball away from El Toro -- he called on his offense to convert fourth down opportunities inside its own 30. That's faith in your team. Said Miller: "I'm going to do this until I'm 80." After reaching the finals three times in the last four years, it was good to see him win, finally.
3. What a surprise that Santa Margarita was selected to the Division I Bowl Championship. Santa Margarita had two losses, and the feeling outside the heads of the 10 commissioners who chose the Bowl participants was that undefeated Bakersfield would likely get the nod if not Vista Murrieta (undefeated on the field but with five forfeits), that Santa Margarita's loss to Mater Dei in the Trinity League opener would be a killer. It wasn't, even though commissioners haven't always given strength of schedule the credit it's due. It creates one terrific backstory: Eagles' coach Harry Welch has a chance to win his third Bowl game in six years with three different teams. He won with Canyon Country Canyon in 2005 with another two-loss team that upset Concord De La Salle in the Division I Bowl (before they had the Open game), and with San Juan Capistrano St. Margaret's in 2008 in the Small School Bowl. If he succeeds, this is a milestone that likely will never be broken. For what it's worth, Welch has no plans to move on to a fourth team.
4. You really have to feel for the players at Beckman who reached the Southern Division championship game for the second year in a row. Their heartbreak couldn't be much worse after losing to Corona del Mar, 14-13. A year ago, they lost because Garden Grove scored a two-point conversion to win the game, 31-30. This time, when the opportunity presented itself to win the game with seven seconds remaining, the Patriots went for it and handed off to the guy who brought them to the dance, running back Jeff Kim. Corona del Mar's defense dialed in on Kim and stopped him. It gave CdM its first championship since winning back to back in 1989-89. The difference was Brent Lawson, who threw his 26th and 27th touchdown passes but made a difference Friday because of his running.
5. How tough was the football in South Orange County this season? Excluding the small private schools, 11 of 15 schools posted overall winning records. Only one of those 11 schools, Trabuco Hills, finished as "bad" as two games over .500, and only two others were three games over .500. One of those was Tesoro (8-5), which defeated two-time defending Pac-5 champion Servite in the playoffs, and also City Section champ Narbonne, 22-13. Tesoro, which finished third in the South Coast League, also beat Sunset League champion Edison. Inconsistency hurt the Titans, though; a week after beating Narbonne, they lost to Temecula Chaparral, 24-6. That was a recurrent theme; a week after beating Servite -- the two-time defending Pac-5 champion that was the top-seeded team in the playoffs -- Tesoro was walloped by San Clemente 51-16. All told, it might have been the best year ever for South County football programs.