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Esperanza Gets a Meek Victory, 41-7

Aztecs rout Santa Margarita in Division I playoffs to keep their retiring coach on the sidelines another week.

November 23, 2002|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

Save the retirement roast, the teary-eyed goodbyes, the final farewells.

Gary Meek will coach at least one more game. His players at Anaheim Esperanza made sure of that, overcoming a sleepy first half to thump Santa Margarita, 41-7, in the first round of the Southern Section Division I football playoffs Friday at Placentia Valencia High.

Shaun Wildenstein had a season-high 213 yards in 26 carries and scored three touchdowns, two in the second half, as Esperanza (10-1) pounded the short-handed Eagles.

Esperanza gave up only 161 yards against Santa Margarita (6-5), which played without running back Ashton White, who learned Thursday that a lingering knee injury had worsened: test results revealed a torn anterior cruciate ligament in White's right knee.

Meek, who will step down after 27 years of coaching but will become the school's athletic director, isn't quite ready for that sappy farewell stuff.

"Don't put a fork in me yet," he said afterward.

Esperanza held Santa Margarita's offense to 57 yards rushing and 104 yards passing. The Eagles tried, unsuccessfully, to dink-and-dunk down the field. Case in point: Receiver Bobby Whitmore had 10 catches

Santa Margarita quarterbacks Case Colaw and Mark Sanchez completed a combined 12 of 25 passes for 87 yards and had three intercepted.

"Even with Ashton, this would have been a tough game," Santa Margarita Coach Jim Hartigan said.

White initially hurt his knee during a summer passing-league game, and sat out two regular-season games. He re-aggravated the injury in the regular-season finale last Friday against Bishop Amat, and was held out against Esperanza after receiving the results of an MRI test done earlier in the week.

"I just thought it was a strain," said White, who had 1,000 yards rushing this season and is considering Washington, USC and Colorado State.

"It's frustrating. I couldn't believe it."

It was hard to believe that Santa Margarita hung with Esperanza in the first half. The Eagles cut the deficit to 14-7 on a double-pass play that concluded with Whitmore throwing a 17-yard touchdown to Mark Johnson with 4:35 left in the second quarter.

But Esperanza forced three turnovers in the second half and scored on Tom Storing's 26-yard interception return to take a 24-7 lead with 2:38 left in the third quarter.

Wildenstein and Michael Kirschner, who had 65 yards in 14 carries, took turns carving up the Eagles in the second half.

The Aztecs, trying for their first Southern Section championship since 1992, will play Santa Ana Mater Dei in a quarterfinal.

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