One pass went a long way in helping Santa Ana High School beat El Modena, 31-0, in a Century League football game Thursday night in front of 1,000 fans at El Modena's Fred Kelly Stadium.
Maybe it was the timing.
On the first play of the game, Santa Ana quarterback George Tuioti found receiver Royal Wilbon streaking down the left sideline for a 69-yard touchdown pass play.
The play stunned El Modena, which never seemed to recover. Santa Ana seemed to be too fast and too big despite playing the first half without Robert Lee, one of the top running backs in Orange County. Lee sat out because of what Coach Dick Hill termed a "coach's decision." Lee started the second half and gained 44 yards in 8 carries.
"We knew they were going to come out and expect the run," Tuioti said. "We've been working on that play the last few days in practice. When I saw the man-to-man (coverage on Wilbon) I sort of smiled when I got under center."
Tuioti completed just one more pass in the game, for a 25-yard gain in the second quarter, but it was significant. On a fourth and two at the Vanguard 30, Tuioti threw a short pass to wide receiver Bobby Joyce, who ran to the 5. One play later, Carlos Garcia scored on a two-yard run to increase the Santa Ana lead to 14-0.
It was Joyce's first game and first reception since he regained his academic eligibility. Joyce missed the first seven games.
"It was pretty trippy to be back in uniform," Joyce said.
In the second half, Joyce caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from Dan Tuioti, George's sophomore brother, to give Santa Ana (7-1 overall, 3-0 in league play) a 24-0 lead with 11:48 left. George Tuioti completed 2 of 5 for 94 yards before giving way to his brother in the second half. Dan Tuioti completed one of two passes.
Joyce also had an interception late in the fourth quarter.
"We didn't put a lot of work on him (in practice)," Hill said. "He's an excellent football player, and we're glad to have him back."
El Modena (4-4, 1-2) never threatened to score. The closest the Vanguards came was the Santa Ana 32, but the drive ended there when running back Steve McClaskey fumbled.
The Saint defense stifled running backs McClaskey and Pat Leborio throughout. McClaskey managed 59 yards in 14 carries, and Leborio had 56 yards, also in 14 carries.