Even when Esperanza High School is down, it is never out.
The Aztecs, who have struggled all season, managed to come up with their biggest victory of the season Friday night, defeating Loara, 37-0, in front of 1,500 in an Empire League game in Placentia's Bradford Stadium.
A victory next week against El Dorado would ensure the Aztecs (5-3-1, 2-1-1) a Southern Conference playoff spot for the 13th consecutive year.
"Tonight, we needed to open up our offense," said Esperanza Coach Gary Meek. "We have been struggling, but this victory builds confidence for us."
Before Friday night's contest, Esperanza had been hardly overpowering this season in the Empire League. The Aztecs were tied by Cypress, squeaked past Katella and were defeated last week by Los Alamitos.
Loara (5-4, 1-3) has lost 4 of its last 5 games, the victory coming last week against favored El Dorado.
Quarterback Jason Moler was a one-man wrecking crew for Esperanza. The senior quarterback completed 9 of 13 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown. On defense, Moler also recovered two fumbles and intercepted two passes, one for a 64-yard touchdown return late in the first quarter.
Esperanza took a 23-0 halftime lead. In the second half, Mike Finley carried the load, scoring on runs of two yards and one yard. Finley rushed for 37 yards in 10 carries.
Loara was never able to mount much offense, netting only nine first downs and 159 yards total offense. The victory was the third shutout for Esperanza this season. The Aztecs blank El Modena and Nogales earlier this year.