Saugus football doesn’t settle

Saugus quarterback Nathan Eldridge (28) evades Hart defender Vincent Gonzalez (12) at College of the Canyons on Friday. Dan Watson/The Signal

By Haley Sawyer for The Signal

Some prep football teams have notoriously explosive secondaries. Others have a star quarterback. Another team might have tradition.

But when it comes to this year’s Saugus team, how do you single out a “wow” factor?

“It’s not something you can really see,” said quarterback Nathan Eldridge. “It’s something you have to be around to understand. It’s, like, the bond that we’re trying to get the players to have because we don’t have the size, we don’t have the speed, we don’t have a lot of that. We don’t have the recruits that a lot of the other schools are getting.

“We have guys that will play their hearts out.”

The Centurions have consistently finished in the middle of the Foothill League for the past several years, but that’s no indication that Saugus is a mediocre team.

Saugus’ James Stirwalt, left, smiles as he chases down teammates during a warmup exercise at practice on Tuesday, August 15, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Saugus’ James Stirwalt, left, smiles as he chases down teammates during a warmup exercise at practice on Tuesday, August 15, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

This year, it was the top-ranked team in Division 6 in the first two CIF-Southern Section football polls. This week, the Cents dropped to third, below Bishop Diego of Santa Barbara and the Foothill League’s very own Golden Valley.

The rankings are nice and finishing in the middle pack is something they would love to change, but the Centurions have bigger things in mind.

“You have to find your victories and successes in other ways and define it in other ways than just simply wins and losses,” said head coach Jason Bornn. “Because if you define it simply in those terms, you’re more often than not going to come out being a failure … For us, it’s just consistently and unselfishly giving their best.”

That’s evidenced by Eldridge, who secured the role of starting quarterback for the second year in a row after battling injury throughout summer and spring ball. He competed with Elijah Gragas and Cole Gallagher for the spot.

“Even if I was healthy … I never would have been able to think that I had the starting spot sealed,” he said.

Through Centurion-style hard work, he earned the role. And in the first game of the season, he threw for three touchdowns and ran for one.

The defense has the same mindset. Two-dollar-steak-toughness stops teams in first-and-goal situations whether the opponent has passing or running in mind.

“Defense comes to hit,” said linebacker Jimmy Stirwalt. “(We’re) a team that’s relentless, who is always, no matter what’s happened, no matter what the score is, hammering play after play after play.

“Whatever the obstacle may be, we’re always going to come after it.”

So when it comes to filling the stands on a Friday night, Saugus doesn’t just rely on a strong performance from one specific area. It’s the all-around character that makes a crowd say “wow.”

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