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Blanco Marks Return With 3 Touchdowns


GARDEN GROVE — Alex Blanco made a successful return to the football field Friday night.

A standout running back who missed most of last season with a knee injury, Blanco rushed for 180 yards and three touchdowns to lead 10th-ranked Rancho Alamitos (1-0) to a 39-6 nonleague victory over Troy (0-1) at Bolsa Grande High.

Junior quarterback George Gonzalez passed for 163 yards and a score, tailback David Vickers scored on runs of eight and one yards and wide receiver Shawn Young caught three passes, including a 58-yard touchdown toss, for Rancho Alamitos, which amassed 435 total yards.

The Vaqueros looked in midseason form as they marched to a 27-0 lead only 18 minutes into the game. Meanwhile, Troy's offense was as bogged down as the Garden Grove Freeway at the north end of the stadium. The Warriors were held to 76 total yards in the first half, most of it on a 15-play, 43-yard scoring march that closed the half.

But on a night when Rancho Alamitos, which plays Esperanza next week, lived up to its preseason billing as the top team in the CIF Southern Section Division VIII, it was Blanco's return that provided a major highlight.

He appeared to be a shoe-in for the 1,000-yard rushing plateau a year ago, gaining 331 yards until he tore his left anterior cruciate ligament in his third game. He didn't waste time Friday, rushing four times for 22 yards and a touchdown on the team's first possession, then bouncing off would-be tacklers at the 50-yard line and racing around right end for another score the next time he touched the ball.

Blanco was over the 100-yard mark halfway through the second quarter and scored his third touchdown on his 11th and final rush of the first half, a 12-yard run.

"It was a little bit frustrating about the injury," Blanco said, "but I didn't want to get down on it and tonight I came out on a positive note. It's the same offensive line we had last year and when they open holes like that for you, it's easy to run through them."

Gonzalez, a junior taking his first snap in a varsity game, gives the Vaqueros another dimension. His only incomplete pass, a 35-yard toss to tight end Eric Camarillo who was wide open across the middle deep in Troy territory, was dropped.

Troy's Stephen Muther showed that he has the potential to be one of the county's more versatile quarterbacks, despite completing only three of 14 passes for 48 yards. Under a heavy rush, he scrambled out of the pocket several times.

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