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ORANGE COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREP EXTRA | SOUTHERN
SECTION DIVISION I PLAYOFFS

Trabuco Hills Has a Surprise for Esperanza

November 21, 1998|MARTIN HENDERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

So much for the new math. You know, the numbers that couldn't possibly add up to a Trabuco Hills victory over Esperanza if the first-round Southern Section Division I game turned into a shootout.

Esperanza's Grant Wagner was completing 69% of his passes. He had three receivers with more than 30 receptions. He had a running back who averaged 154 yards and two touchdowns a game.

And none of that mattered.

"We weren't intimidated," Trabuco Hills quarterback Brandon Heaney said.

Prey turned into predator Friday at Valencia as Trabuco Hills upset Esperanza, 49-35, behind a five-touchdown performance by Al Gandall and a 217-yard passing performance by a running quarterback.

"Bottom line," Esperanza Coach Gary Meek said, "they ran over us."

Steamrolled them, actually.

Trabuco Hills scored on seven of its eight possessions before running out the final 1 minute 24 seconds. The only time the Mustangs didn't score was in the fourth quarter, when Gandall fumbled on the first play from scrimmage.

It was Gandall's only mistake. Nicknamed "the Polynesian Nightmare" by teammates, he was exactly that to Esperanza's defense. He rushed 29 times for 179 yards and four touchdowns, of 11, 12, 13 and eight yards. He also caught two passes for 62 yards, one a 42-yard touchdown.

Trabuco Hills (9-1-1) will play fourth-seeded La Puente Bishop Amat (10-0-1) in the second round. Esperanza finished 9-2.

The 49 points were the most Trabuco Hills scored this season, and the most Esperanza allowed this season.

"If you had told me we were going to score 49 points," Trabuco Hills Coach Bill Crow said, "I'd have told you you had too much to drink."

That's how improbable Trabuco Hills' performance was. The Mustangs figured to have a chance only if their defense, which allowed more than 14 points twice this season, contained Wagner (19 for 29, 228 yards, three touchdowns) and Jarrod Schuster (22 carries, 194 yards, two touchdowns). They sacked Wagner five times.

"I would have taken my chances with three touchdowns," Crow said. "I would have been happy."

Instead, he was ecstatic over his team's first playoff victory since 1994.

Heaney completed 10 of 13 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns, one to Gandall and two to Advon Chestnut (47 and 42 yards).

The 47-yarder was the biggest play for the Mustangs.

Twice in the first half Trabuco Hills answered Esperanza with a scoring drive of its own. But when Esperanza scored with 1:04 left in the first half--on a 65-yard drive that was completely Schuster's (he scored from the seven)--to cut the deficit to 21-14, momentum's pendulum was swinging back to the Aztecs. Heaney rolled out three times for 11-yard gains, then threw deep to Chestnut for the score with 34 seconds left in the half. That made it 28-14, with the Mustangs getting the second-half kickoff. The momentum was theirs again.

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