Saugus Centurions football dropped its season opener against the Rio Mesa Spartans Thursday night at Canyon High School.
The Centurions struggled to catch the flashy Spartan quarterback JJ Bittner. The junior quarterback showcased his speed and made several huge plays with his legs, including two rushing scores.
Bittner also spread the ball around and added two passing touchdowns to teammates Charlie Rios and Abel Ramos. The quarterback hit more than eight different receivers in Thursday’s 48-6 blowout non-league win over Saugus.
Bittner finished 15 for 25 with four total touchdowns over 200 yards of total offense.
“(Rio Mesa) is a great football team,” said Saugus coach Jason Bornn. “They out-executed us in all three phases.”
The defeat marked the Centurions’ (0-1) first opening-week loss in nine years.
Saugus struggled to get the offense going in the first half, with three quick punts and two interceptions from quarterback Trent Johnson. The Cents opening drive foreshadowed a rough game for Saugus as receivers dropped three-straight passes leading to a quick three and out.
The Spartans (1-0) turned on the burners quickly and bought in scores on three of their four first-half drives.
Saugus got its first score of the season from senior kicker Paige McGee. The Centurion kicker nailed both of her attempts, going 2-for-2 with field goals from 22 and 27 yards out.
Saugus nearly found the end zone on a trick play when junior Rylan Connelly took a lateral pass in the flat and missed wide receiver CJ Mound in the end zone.
Linebacker Anthony Torres brought down Bittner for Saugus’ first sack of the season. Torres’ big play helped hold Rio Mesa out of the end zone in its final drive of the first half and kept the deficit at 21-3.
Rio Mesa was a bit shaky with 10 first-half penalties but managed to clean it up in the second half.
Penalties were a theme of the night as the two teams combined for 21 accepted penalties, not counting offsetting or declined fouls.
The Spartans turned up the heat in the third quarter and scored on their first two drives.
Rio Mesa’s defense got in on the scoring in the fourth quarter on a pick-six ran back by cornerback Trayvion Duplessis in the fourth quarter.
Even while trailing by more than four scores, Saugus kept up the intensity. Running back Lucas Francke displayed some hard running with multiple big gains in the game. Francke finished 79 total yards in about three quarters of action.
“We were excited and ready to play,” Bornn said. “We just got into the game and things just got away from us.”
Senior RJ Temple couldn’t find the end zone but helped get the Centurion offense moving in the third quarter. The receiver picked up back-to-back solid gains from Johnson on the team’s second-half opening drive and finished with seven catches for 53 yards.
Saugus will look to rebound next week on the road when the Centurions head to Moorpark on Friday. Aug. 25, at 7 p.m.
Rio Mesa will be right around the corner on the road again against the Camarillo Scorpions.
“Bottom line is we just have to learn and grow and get better from tonight’s experience,” Bornn said. “We just lost 48-6. Only way we can go is up.”