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ORANGE COUNTY PREP FOOTBALL : Esperanza Wins Opener Against Marina, 14-7

September 11, 1987|MIKE CORNWELL | Times Staff Writer

Gary Meeks, Esperanza coach, was trying to keep the night in perspective, and considering how frustrating it had been at times, he wasn't doing badly. He wasn't biting his lip, steaming and counting to 10. He wasn't staring into the stadium lights looking for an answer that wasn't there.

You just don't take an old fashioned running offense off the blocks, give it two quarterbacks who alternate, start throwing the ball almost as much as running it, and have everything work perfectly. At least not in the first game of the season, prime time for bobbled balls, broken plays and endless penalties.

But you have a right to be frustrated when your offense has been on the field most of the first half yet has little to show for its effort. In fact, your veteran team has to rally in the last two minutes to defeat a young Marina team, 14-7, which is what happened Thursday night at Westminster Stadium.

You could open next week's chalk talk with an upbeat update about how underclassman quarterbacks Joe Sugar and Jason Moler made a snazzy debut. Or how that offensive line that averages 241 pounds from tackle to tackle was opening freeway-sized holes most of the night. Indeed, six different ballcarriers and three receivers rolled up 157 yards and 11 first downs in the first half alone.

But then you have to talk about the frustration of not scoring. Esperanza's offense controlled the ball so much that Marina had only five offensive plays in the first quarter and 45 yards total offense the whole first half. Yet, the Aztecs could get near the end zone but no into it.

Although the offense once reached Marina's 1-yard line, it was pushed back with penalties and Kevin Leon's field goal ricocheted off the crossbar.

Esperanza managed its only touchdown of that one-sided half when tight end Mike Kent caught an 11-yard pass from Moler.

"Right now we're not a real good football team," Meeks said. "We've got to be able to score. We must have had the ball 20 minutes to their four in the first half."

In the third quarter, Marina recovered a fumble at the Aztecs' 10-yard line and drove the ball in two plays later.

The Vikings barely managed even that. Running back Jeff Robbins took a handoff at the four-yard line and fumbled into the end zone. However, his fumble was recovered by teammate Derrick Watkins and, after Mike Lapper kicked the extra point, the score was tied 7-7.

In the last offensive series, Meeks might have found something that helped that the postgame perspective. His offense got the ball back with just more than two minutes remaining. With 1:01 left, tailback Mike Finley scored the winning touchdown on a five-yard run, capping a 60-yard drive.

"I felt if we got the ball at the 50 we had a real good chance of scoring," Meeks said.

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