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Prep Football : Tipped Pass Enables Esperanza to Rally Past El Modena, 14-10

Times Staff Writer

Sophomore quarterback Keith McDonald threw a 77-yard touchdown pass with 6:49 remaining to lift Esperanza High School to a 14-10 victory over El Modena Friday night in front of 2,500 fans in Placentia’s Bradford Stadium.

McDonald, who had only 15 yards passing midway through the final quarter, actually underthrew receiver Greg Hauser, but got a big assist from defender Loni Hayes to complete the pass.

Hayes tipped the pass at his own 33-yard line, deflecting the ball into the hands of Hauser, who turned and ran untouched to the end zone. The play spoiled a fine defensive effort by El Modena, which lost to the Aztecs for the third straight season.

“I thought we outplayed them,” said Bill Backstrom, El Modena coach. “A tipped pass goes for a touchdown or we win the game. I was encouraged with our effort. It was good enough to win.”

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Esperanza (2-0) needed three interceptions and a reversed call by game officials that allowed a touchdown in the second quarter to gain the win. The Aztecs sacked El Modena quarterback Marcus Esposito four times and limited him to 40 yards rushing and 75 yards passing.

“Esposito is a fine player, but I thought we played pretty well defensively,” said Gary Meek, Esperanza coach. “We’ve allowed 10 points in 2 games, and the touchdown came after we gave El Modena the ball at our 10-yard line.

“I thought Keith McDonald came of age tonight. When you consider that he was the freshman quarterback last season, I think you can see why we think he has a great future ahead of him.”

El Modena (0-2) had failed to score in two previous meetings with Esperanza, but it broke the scoreless streak in a hurry. Tailback Adam Garcia, making his first start, ran 40 yards on his first carry helping his team drive to Esperanza’s 29-yard line. But, El Modena had to settle for a 47-yard field goal by Tim Hatcher with 9:05 remaining that cleared the crossbar by 10 yards.

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Esperanza got its initial first down with 6:04 remaining in the half, but got a big break when defensive back Corey Winch intercepted Esposito’s pass at the Vanguard 27-yard line with 2:27 to play in the half.

It took five plays and a reversed call by the officiating crew before Esperanza scored to take a 7-3 lead at halftime. A pass interference call against El Modena gave the Aztecs possession at the Vanguard 12-yard line.

After three running plays gained nine yards, Meek decided to gamble on fourth down at the three-yard line. McDonald threw a flare pass to tight end Craig Campbell for an apparent score, but the linesman trailing the play ruled that defender Alfred Vila had been interfered with on the play.

The officials huddled for several minutes and finally ruled that Esperanza had blocked Vila behind the line of scrimmage and allowed the touchdown with only 34 seconds left in the half.

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“First, they ruled the play was pass interference and then they call it off,” Backstrom said. “What are you going to say?”

Meek said the play was a screen pass to his tight end behind the line of scrimmage which allowed his receiver to block Vila at the start of the questionable play.

“There was no interference since the play began behind the line of scrimmage,” Meek said. “The linesman made the wrong call, and then the referee corrected him. It was that simple.”


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