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Esperanza Drops Huntington Beach


Huntington Beach probably wishes it could have kept playing nonleague games. The Oilers entered the Sunset League undefeated and ranked seventh in the county. But after a 35-7 thumping by third-ranked Esperanza Thursday night at Valencia High, the ninth-ranked Oilers are 0-2 in league and free-falling out of the top 10.

Huntington Beach, which lost, 13-12, to Fountain Valley last week, never had a chance against the angry and talented Aztecs, which lost a heartbreaker to Los Alamitos last week. Esperanza (6-1, 1-1) was simply too big and too quick for Huntington Beach (5-2, 0-2), which played the second half without starting quarterback Jeff Emerson, who suffered a mild concussion late in the second quarter and was replaced by sophomore Casey Ryder.

"We knew depth was going to be our problem," Huntington Beach Coach Tony Ciarelli said. "We had five sophomores playing and you just can't do that in the Sunset League.

"That was just a good old-fashioned butt kicking. We just couldn't match up with them up front. They have a huge offensive line."

That huge offensive line gave Esperanza quarterback Grant Wagner plenty of time to complete 20 of 26 passes for 321 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. Wagner's first three scoring passes went to tight end Bo Ashabraner on bootleg plays.

"We worked on it all week, but they didn't believe [Esperanza] was going to run the bootleg," Ciarelli said.

Said Wagner: "We do a lot of those plays. It just kept working, so we kept on doing it."

Wagner didn't have any difficulty spotting Ashabraner, who stands 6 feet 6 inches.

"It's kind of nice," Wagner said. "I can throw it high and know that he's going to come down with it. He's got great hands."

When Wagner wasn't finding Ashabraner wide open, he was spotting Aaron Hill or Kris Hall running loose in the secondary. Hill caught six passes for 116 yards and Hall had five catches for 84 yards.

Esperanza Coach Gary Meek said the key to Wagner's big night was his mental approach.

"He's been trying to make the game tougher than it is," Meek said. "He relaxed tonight and did the things that came natural to him. He went out and had some fun."

Esperanza led, 21-0, at halftime on Ashabraner's touchdown catches of four, 20 and 11 yards, and, 28-0, after three quarters. Huntington Beach scored its only touchdown when Mark Corrales picked up a botched handoff on a punt return reverse play and ran it back 29 yards. The Aztecs finished off their scoring in the fourth quarter on a Ryan Clewett seven-yard run.

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