It had been an odd year for the Esperanza High School football team, the Aztecs having gotten off to their worst start (1-5) in 11 seasons under Coach Pete Yoder.
Esperanza is usually 6-1 by now. This is a school that has reached the Southern Section semifinals in each of the past six seasons and has made two appearances in the Southern Conference championship game (1982 and '84) and two in the Central Conference championship game (1979 and '80), winning the latter title in 1979.
Yet, here were the Aztecs, mired in a losing season and in danger of not reaching the playoffs for the first time since Yoder became Esperanza's coach in 1975.
That, coupled with the fact that 1985 is an odd-numbered year, figured to weigh heavily in El Dorado's favor Friday night when the Aztecs and Golden Hawks met in an Empire League game. Since 1975, El Dorado had won the game between these North Orange County rivals every odd-numbered year.
But tradition took a beating Friday night, and so did the Golden Hawks. Esperanza, behind the rushing of Mike Miscione and the passing of Greg Beckman, whipped El Dorado, 24-7, before 4,500 in Placentia's Bradford Stadium.
Miscione, a junior tailback, ran for 118 yards on 28 carries and scored two touchdowns, while Beckman, the senior quarterback, completed 10 of 14 passes for 139 yards and hit Kevin Clancy with a perfect, 44-yard touchdown bomb in the second period.
The Aztecs got back into the playoff picture by scoring 21 points in the second quarter, 14 of them set up by El Dorado turnovers.
Esperanza's Brian Aube connected on a 34-yard field goal late in the first quarter, but it was nullified by an illegal-procedure penalty. His ensuing 38-yard attempt was wide right. The Hawks couldn't gain a first down on their next possession, and Rich Poole gave the Aztecs excellent field position by returning a punt 16 yards to the El Dorado 34.
From there, it took Esperanza seven plays to reach the end zone, Miscione going over from three yards out and Dave Cusiter adding the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
The Aztecs used the big play for their next touchdown, Beckman lofting a bomb down the left sideline to a streaking Clancy, who never breaking stride, caught the ball near the 10-yard line and cruised in for the 44-yard score.
Tony Chill set up Esperanza's next touchdown when he recovered Golden Hawk quarterback Dan Sutherland's fumble at the El Dorado 16 with 1:39 remaining in the first half.
Beckman hit Clancy for eight yards, an offsides penalty advanced the ball to the four, and Miscione covered the rest for his second touchdown of the game.
Cusiter added his third extra point for a 21-0 halftime lead.
The Golden Hawks averted the shutout in the third period when Rich Chamberlain took a screen pass from quarterback Doug Yates, who had replaced Sutherland late in the second quarter, and ran nine yards for the touchdown.
Brian Aube closed out Esperanza's scoring with a 25-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
Miscione's 118 yard-performance marked the second straight week that Miscione had surpassed 100 yards rushing. He gained 101 yards in last week's 3-0 loss to Pacifica.
Chamberlain finished with 68 yards rushing on 12 carries, while Sutherland and Yates combined for 121 yards passing.