Anaheim Western controlled the clock Thursday night against Brea Olinda. The Pioneers just couldn't control Steve Stagnaro and Manuel Gutierrez.
Stagnaro passed for 133 yards and two touchdowns in the first half and Gutierrez rushed for 104 yards and three touchdowns in the second as the Wildcats defeated Western, 40-25, in an Orange League game at Western High.
"This gave us a lot of confidence going into the next game [against Anaheim] and the playoffs," said Gutierrez, who finished with 121 yards in 17 carries.
If the Wildcats defeat Anaheim next week, they will clinch their fourth league title in the last five years.
"It feels good to be back at No.1," said Stagnaro, who was quarterback last season when Brea Olinda lost to Western, 35-28, after leading by two touchdowns.
Western (6-2, 3-1) ran 43 plays in the first half, compared to only 13 for Brea Olinda, but trailed, 17-12, at halftime. The Pioneers used 17 running plays on the opening drive of the game to take a 6-0 lead. The drive burned nine minutes off the clock and was capped by Rodney Eason's two-yard touchdown run.
"That drive was kind of nerve-wracking," said Stagnaro, who also plays defensive back. "I didn't think they would score that easily."
Brea Olinda (8-0, 4-0) cut the lead in half on a 22-yard field goal by Matt Votaw early in the second quarter, then Paddy Heiman intercepted the first pass of the game by Western quarterback Mike Hicks. The Wildcats took the lead one play later on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Stagnaro to Brandon Nicholson.
Western put together a 71/2-minute drive on its next possession, but Hickswas sacked by Gutierrez on fourth down at the Wildcat 22. Stagnaro then completed four consecutive passes, the final one a 40-yard touchdown pass to Justin Davern, giving Brea Olinda a 17-6 lead with 1:43 to go in the first half.
Gutierrez scored on a seven-yard run on Brea Olinda's first possession of the second half to give the Wildcats a 24-12 lead. After Western cut the lead to six points with 2:22 remaining in the third quarter, Brea Olinda marched 67 yards in 12 plays and took a 32-18 lead on Gutierrez's one-yard run.
"Our offense wasn't the problem," said Western Coach Toby Howell. "It was our defense."