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ORANGE COUNTY PREP FOOTBALL

Esperanza Rises to the Occasion in Second Half

October 13, 2000|DAVE McKIBBEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the first half, Esperanza's Sunset League opener against Fountain Valley looked a lot like the Aztecs' loss to San Clemente four weeks ago. A lot of yards, but nothing to show for it.

But Temitope Sonuyi and his powerful legs made sure there was no repeat of San Clemente. In 32 carries, the senior running back rambled for 328 yards and five touchdowns, four in the fourth quarter, as third-ranked Esperanza rallied to beat Fountain Valley, 41-15, Thursday night before 3,000 at Valencia High.

"A lot of times in practice and in the huddle, we say to ourselves, 'Remember San Clemente,' " Sonuyi said. "It's all about Aztec pride. You don't go through as much as we did in hell week to lose a game like this."

Said Esperanza Coach Gary Meek: "He makes me a good coach. Timmy's had a lot of good games this year, but he did a great job tonight of making the big plays at the right time."

On paper, Esperanza appeared to be outplaying Fountain Valley (3-3, 0-1) in the first half. It held the first-down advantage, 13-5, and Sonuyi had rushed for 125 yards. But Fountain Valley's defense and special teams made enough plays to build a 12-0 halftime lead.

Fountain Valley's first touchdown drive was only 33 yards, thanks to a 35-yard return of a blocked field goal by Eric Young. Michael Kotler finished the four-play drive with a one-yard run. The Barons' second scoring drive was a short one--52 yards in six plays, capped by Kotler's three-yard plunge.

"We couldn't believe what was happening in the first half," Sonuyi said. "We kept stopping ourselves."

But in the second half, there was no stopping Sonuyi, who seemed to get stronger and faster as the game wore on. He scored on a two-yard run to open the third quarter and he helped set up Shaun Wildenstein's three-yard touchdown run that gave Esperanza its first lead at 13-12.

After Casey Clark's 33-yard field goal gave Fountain Valley a brief 15-13 lead, Sonuyi went back to work. He scored on a 28-yard run with 11:48 left in the game. He busted a 54-yard run from his own seven and scored a play later on a 37-yard dash that featured three broken tackles. After Esperanza safety Rex Elder's third interception of the game, Sonuyi scored again on a 15-yard burst up the middle. Sonuyi dragged two defenders with him on his fourth score of the quarter, an eight-yard run off right tackle.

"Timmy will wear on you that way," Meek said. "He gets harder to tackle the second time around. I think our offensive line wore them down a little too."

Sonuyi didn't do it all by himself. Esperanza quarterback Greg Farrell threw for 219 yards on 17-of-31 passing. Receiver Greg Pace caught eight for 130 yards.

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