Considering the circumstances, it was surprising that Esperanza High School would even think of throwing the football Friday night.
Playing in a 35 m.p.h. wind, with two key receivers out with injuries, the Aztecs figured to rely mostly on Mike Miscione, Orange County's leading rusher, in their Southern Conference playoff game against Santa Monica.
And while Miscione did gain 167 yards in 31 carries, it was quarterback Mike Moneymaker who stole the spotlight in Esperanza's 13-12 victory before an estimated crowd of 2,500 at Santa Monica College.
Moneymaker completed just 7 passes, but 2 went for touchdowns, including an 18-yard scoring toss to Michael Kent with 9 seconds left in the first half. That ended scoring in the game and held up for the win.
"Moneymaker was sensational at the end of the half," Gary Meek, Esperanza coach, said afterward.
Moneymaker drove the Aztecs 83 yards in less than a minute and a half by mixing up passes with Miscione's running.
Moneymaker threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Chad Palessiro in the first quarter. Brian Aube kicked the extra point that proved to be the eventual margin of victory. The touchdown play was set up when strong safety Jason Moler forced a fumble and Craig Jackowski recovered.
Miscione helped protect that lead in the final period, when the Aztecs went on a drive that covered 70 yards and chewed up 6 1/2 minutes.
Santa Monica, which ran only five plays in the first quarter, used a couple of breaks to stay in the game. After quarterback Randy Bongard drove the Vikings 97 yards for their first touchdown, Santa Monica recovered Miscione's fumble at the Aztec's seven-yard line. Two runs by Bongard gave the Vikings a 12-7 lead that looked safe with just 1:35 left before halftime.
But that was before Moneymaker rallied Esperanza for the winning touchdown and gave his team a 9-1-1 record.