Bill Backstrom, El Modena High School coach, sat in the coaches' box at Fred Kelly Stadium Thursday night and watched his Vanguards dominate Foothill, 27-6, to earn the Century League's third playoff spot.
The position was a familiar one for Backstrom. For 11 years, as assistant to former Vanguard coach Bob Lester, Backstrom sat in the box calling plays. And for all but two of those years, El Modena advanced to the playoffs.
Last season, Backstrom's first on the sidelines as head coach, El Modena didn't make the playoffs as it lost a coin flip to Canyon and Foothill.
Call it more effective play calling or call is superstition, but for the last two games of this season, Backstrom moved back to the box. El Modena (6-4, 3-2), which won both games, is back in the Southern Conference playoffs.
"This is a big relief," Backstrom said. "El Modena is used to being in the playoffs."
Now it's Foothill's turn for that unfamiliar feeling. Under first-year Coach Jerry Howell, the Knights--a perennial playoff contender--finish 4-6 overall, 1-4 in league play.
El Modena's defense shut down Foothill, holding John Mountain, the county's third-leading rusher, to 52 yards in 12 carries. Junior quarterback Tom Hawkins did not complete a pass and was intercepted three times before being replaced in the fourth quarter. The Knights' only score came on a two-yard run by Mike Horton in the second quarter, after Foothill's recovery of an El Modena fumble. The touchdown gave Foothill a 6-3 lead midway through the second quarter.
With a little fewer than three minutes remaining in the half, El Modena's Tim Hatcher tied the score with a 27-yard field goal, to add to his earlier 46-yard shot. From then on the game belonged to the Vanguards.
With 25 seconds remaining in the half, Vanguard tailback Pat Leborio caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Marcus Esposito. Leborio ran for 132 yards in 22 carries. In the second half, Leborio scored on touchdown runs of 34 and 4 yards.