Already armed with one of the best passing quarterbacks in the county, Brea-Olinda High deployed a surprisingly effective running attack to defeat Buena Park, 22-8, in the nonleague opener for both teams Friday night in front of 3,000 at Brea-Olinda.
The Wildcats got two of their three touchdowns on the ground against a team that, ironically, features a more highly touted running game headed by split back Angel Barrios.
"We didn't set the world on fire running the ball, but it was better than we anticipated," Brea-Olinda Coach Jon Looney said.
The two players who put the biggest smile on Looney's face were running back Sean Bickel, who rushed for 68 yards in 15 carries and two touchdowns, and quarterback Jason Luevanos, who completed 10 of 13 passes for 132 yards.
But for a while in the first quarter, there wasn't much for Looney and the Wildcats to laugh about.
Buena Park struck on its first possession, going 64 yards on nine plays and scoring on a 25-yard pass from quarterback Geno Robles to wide receiver Chris Stone with 4 minutes 18 seconds remaining in the quarter. Robles then ran for the two-point conversion.
The Wildcats, the defending Orange League champions, responded midway through the second quarter, tying the score on a one-yard run by Bickel and a two-point conversion run by Luevanos. A play earlier, on the first Brea conversion attempt, Buena Park defensive back Randy Brown was called for interference on a pass from Luevanos intended for Gilbert Arriola.
Brea increased the lead to 15-8 with 51 seconds left in the half on an eight-yard pass from Luevanos to Arriola. It added another score with 6:23 to play in the game on a three-yard run by Bickel, who had runs of 14 and 12 yards in the five-play drive.
Barrios was the workhorse for the Coyotes, carrying 16 times for 87 yards. But the punishing Brea defense made sure they were tough yards that didn't hurt them.
"The defensive line did a good job," Looney said.
It was the third consecutive nonleague victory for Brea over the Coyotes, who finished third in the Freeway League last year and who are among the favorites to win the league title this season.