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A Cardinal brotherhood

Santa Clarita Christian’s Ryan and Ethan Espinosa have been unsung members of the Cardinals

Posted: December 4, 2009 10:32 p.m.
Updated: December 5, 2009 4:30 a.m.

Brothers Ryan and Ethan Espinosa have helped lead Santa Clarita Christian into today's CIF-Southern Section Division I 8-Man championship game against Faith Baptist. Both are key components of the Cardinals' defense.

A few friends threw around the football in the parking lot of the Valencia Albertsons supermarket after church on Sunday.

That’s where a quarter of Santa Clarita Christian’s defense came together, nearly two years ago.

Brothers Ryan and Ethan Espinosa were playing catch with their friend Colin Mayhugh in August of 2007.

“Man, I wish we could be playing football together,” Mayhugh recalls saying.

“I thought about it, and I said, ‘Wait a minute, dude, that might actually be possible,’” Ethan remembers with a laugh.

It seemed a bit far-fetched at first.

Ryan had just finished summer training for Valencia’s football team. Ethan hadn’t played football since his Pop Warner days in the eighth grade.

Mayhugh was a running back for the Cardinals.

“We just put it in God’s hands,” Ryan says.

Mayhugh says the three of them prayed that night for a chance to play together.

They had no idea that in a couple years, they’d be playing for a possible second straight CIF-Southern Section Division I 8-man Football Championship together.

But it wasn’t a completely seamless transition.

While both brothers were able to make an impact on the team, Ryan says it was hard at first.

His athletic ability and practice with the Vikings had given him a head start physically, but there were other difficulties.

He missed his old classmates. His old team.

Ryan, a junior, was set to make an impact on the junior varsity team for the Vikings, and had the potential to be a leader there after a standout freshman year.

“He was having second thoughts about it because he thought he was going to be a captain,” Ethan, a senior, says.

The pair’s brotherhood was more important though.

If they were going to change schools, they were going to do it together.

There is no rivalry, their dad, Rick, insists. The pair are inseparably close.

They enjoy sharing a room while their younger brother and sister have their own.

Ethan and Ryan made the decision together, there would be no other way.

They talk about their teammates now as though it is a second family.

It’s clear they’re full-fledged Cardinals now.

While Mayhugh and Collin Keoshian have helped lead an offense averaging 63 points per game in its last three playoff contests, the unsung pair of Espinosas have had a crucial role in the team’s success.

While neither are extremely big for football — Ethan is a 5-foot-9-inch, 150-pound nose tackle, and Ryan is a lanky, 6-foot-1-inch defensive back — their drive and play-making ability made an immediate impact.

“They go hard every play, every down. They set a precedent for younger kids. They set a precedent for the guys new to the team. They set a precedent for me,” Mayhugh says. “They’re the heart and soul of this defense.”

Defense has been the reason why SCCS has been able to win in a mercy-rule fashion as opposed to shootouts.

Cardinals head coach Garrick Moss said it’s not just their determination, but a toughness that sets them apart.

He recalled when Ryan suffered a badly separated shoulder after catching a pass against Joshua Springs.

“Two weeks later, he was like, ‘Coach, I can just wrap it up really tight.’ ... He worked really hard on rehabbing because he knew we would need him back. I’m really proud of how he handled that whole situation.”

Moss said Ethan is always encouraging his teammates and is constantly amazed by the way he holds his own against tackles that can outweigh him by more than 100 pounds easily.

“Both of them have this mentality on the football field that they never quit,” Moss says. “They go all out and it’s been great having that on the football team.”

Using speed and tenacity, Ethan has played a role helping to free up Keoshian and the others, who often get the credit with sacks and big tackles.   

“Yeah Ethan’s undersized, but he goes so hard every play,” Mayhugh says. “He’s a bit of a sacrificial lamb for us.”

Ryan says he still has friends who play for Valencia, and they all say they’re going to the Vikings game tonight against Moorpark in the CIF-SS Northern Division semifinals to show their support.

But as far as regrets?

“I’m going to be there rooting for them,” Ryan says. “But I already have a ring.”

Both will get a chance for one more against Faith Baptist at 1 p.m. in Canoga Park.



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