Although it may be premature to label Esperanza High School a serious contender for the Southern Conference title, the Aztecs certainly looked like a championship team on Thursday night in a 31-0 romp over El Modena in front of 2,000 fans in Fred Kelly Stadium.
The Aztecs, making the most of an offensive line that averages 233 pounds, gained 202 yards rushing and 109 yards passing. Defensively, they limited El Modena to 20 yards rushing and intercepted 3 passes.
"They were outstanding," said Bill Backstrom, El Modena coach. "They look like a genuine contender for the title. They're so big and physical."
Esperanza's offensive line is enough to make any coach envious. Tackle Mike Linn (261 pounds) continually opened holes for running backs Malek Doulat and Mike Finley all evening. Doulat led all rushers with 120 yards in 15 carries.
Center Carlos Avina, the lightweight on the line at 230 pounds, showed his expertise at trap and pass blocking as the Aztecs' two quarterbacks, Jason Moler and Joe Sugar, were sacked only once.
The most impressive player on the line is 6-foot 7-inch tight end Mike Kent, a major college prospect. Kent, who caught three passes, leads the team with 7 receptions for 81 yards.
Esperanza scored in every quarter. But 105 yards in penalties kept the Aztecs from adding more to the final outcome. Gary Meek, Esperanza coach, downplayed the title talk and praised his team's defensive effort.
"I can't say enough about our defense," he said. "This is probably the best defensive unit we've ever had at Esperanza. Our two safeties (Moler and Doug Saunders) are like coaches on the field.
"Kevin Webb (inside linebacker) showed how quick he is on that interception that he returned in the fourth quarter. But the title is way down the road. I'm just trying to keep everybody healthy before our league starts."
Meek said he would continue to rotate Sugar and Moler at quarterback as long as the Aztecs keep winning. Sugar completed 7 of 8 passes for 119 yards and 1 touchdown. Moler was 2 for 5 for 22 yards.
Santa Ana Valley 21, Kennedy 10--Roshawn Lacy intercepted three passes, one of which he carried back 98 yards for a touchdown at Santa Ana Stadium, to give the Falcons their first victory of the season.
With Santa Ana Valley trailing, 10-7, in the third quarter, Lacy intercepted Kennedy quarterback Pete Montera at his two-yard line and turned it into a go-ahead touchdown. Lacy added a second touchdown on a seven-yard pass from Steve Calhoun.
Santa Ana Valley (1-1) had gained 87 yards in total offense and had no first downs in the second half. It was also assessed 17 penalties totaling 171 yards in the game.
Kennedy's Montera, a junior, completed 8 of 30 passes for 142 yards and one touchdown but was intercepted six times.