It was a gutsy move, El Modena High School going for a two-point conversion and the lead early in the third period of Saturday night’s nonleague game against Pacifica.
Had the Vanguards failed, they may have lost the momentum they had gained while erasing a 14-0 deficit. Two points, on the other hand, would put them ahead, 15-14.
But El Modena quarterback Chris Gallego made Vanguard Coach Bob Lester look like a genius, as he rolled right and hit a wide-open Darren DeFeo in the end zone for two points and the lead.
The top-ranked Vanguards (3-0) then went on to win, 28-14, in front of 3,500 fans in Bolsa Grande Stadium at Garden Grove.
“It wasn’t much of a gamble,” Lester said. “I don’t have much confidence in our offense, and I wanted to go for all the points I could. It also shows my confidence in our defense. I didn’t think they’d allow them to score again.”
Again, Lester was right.
Though the Vanguard defense, which had allowed seven points in two previous games, bent a little Saturday night, it came up with the big plays when it needed them and held the Mariners scoreless after yielding 14 second-quarter points.
Pacifica quarterback Scott Pettit had a big night, completing 18 of 30 passes for 206 yards and a touchdown. Willie Taylor tied a school record with 9 receptions for 97 yards.
But the Mariners (1-2) lost four fumbles, three in the second half, and two of those led to El Modena touchdowns.
The first costly mistake was Callen Chase’s fumble, which El Modena’s Greg Gill recovered at the Pacifica 24-yard line early in the third quarter.
Ross Bauer, who rushed for 166 yards and three touchdowns, covered the entire 24 yards, the last two accounting for a touchdown that brought the Vanguards to within one, 14-13. Gallego then connected with DeFeo for the two-point conversion and a 15-14 lead.
Later in the quarter, Pettit completed a pass to Ken Greene, but Greene fumbled with El Modena’s Pepe Jezek recovering at the Vanguard 27-yard line. From the 13, Bauer took a pitch from Gallego and tossed a touchdown pass to DeFeo, and Eric Watson’s extra point gave El Modena a 22-14 lead.
The Vanguards added their final touchdown on Bauer’s one-yard run with 57 seconds remaining.
After a shaky start, Gallego finished completing 13 of 21 attempts for 149 yards. John Thompson caught six passes for 56 yards.
Playing without starting defensive tackle Jason Brusuelas, who injured his shoulder in last week’s loss to Westminster, the Mariners simply couldn’t contain the Vanguard offense, which rolled up 307 total yards.
But, with the exception of the fumbles, Pacifica’s offense also had a respectable showing, as the Mariners totaled 327 yards. Had they held on to the ball more often, they may have upset the Vanguards. Tony Caceda led Pacifica rushers with 69 yards on 15 carries, while Chase had 51 yards on 16 attempts.
Pacifica scored all of its points in a one-minute span of the second quarter. From his own 39-yard line, Pettit completed passes of 13 and 16 yards to Taylor and Bill Hardesty to advance the ball to the El Modena 32.
Three plays later, Pettit lofted a bomb down the right side to Taylor, who beat Vanguard defensive back Jeff DeLeon for the catch and broke Terry Drain’s tackle attempt at the five before moving in for the score.
On El Modena’s ensuing possession, Gallego fumbled after being sacked by Chris Hartman, and Chase recovered on the Vanguard 28. On Pacifica’s first play, Chase burst through the line, broke a tackle in the secondary and raced into the end zone. Keith Greene’s PAT gave the Mariners a 14-0 lead.
El Modena’s offense finally woke up in time to put together an 8-play, 70-yard drive, which Bauer capped with a 15-yard touchdown run 25 seconds before halftime.
University 29, Laguna Hills 17--Junior tailback Craig Belle scored three touchdowns to lead University to a nonleague victory over Laguna Hills Saturday night at Irvine Stadium.
Belle, who rushed for 195 yards on 11 carries, scored on runs of 58, 66, and 35 yards as the Trojans improved their record to 1-2.
University totaled 255 yards rushing compared to 78 for Laguna Hills. The Hawks scored on a 2-yard run by David Dancey and a 37-yard touchdown pass from Pat Buckley to Chris Latham.
Orange Lutheran 48, La Verne Lutheran 6--The Lancers raced to a 27-0 halftime lead as they improved their record to 3-0 with this nonleague win at home.
Quarterback Lmanyeo Scott ran for three touchdowns and threw for another to lead the victory. Running back Leon Neben also rushed for three touchdowns.
The Lancers open Olympic League play Friday night against Maranatha at San Marino.
Southern California Christian 35, LA Lutheran 0--Orange County’s leading rusher, Louie Simon, continued to run wild as the Flames raised their record to 3-0.
Simon rushed for 250 yards on 15 carries, including touchdown runs of 80, 24, and 18 yards, in the nonleague game at the College of the Canyons.
The Flames open Olympic League play by hosting Valley Christian a week from tonight at Glover Stadium.
Indio West Shores 44, Claremont 24--Despite three touchdown by Tony Cardullo, the Cougars could not overcome the visitors from Indio. Claremont (0-1 in league, 0-2 overall) meets Coast Christian next week.