Loara Coach John deFries summed it up, short and sweet. After watching his team play 48 minutes against a defense that wouldn’t budge, all he could do was admire.
“We couldn’t do a thing about it,” deFries said.
Esperanza’s 21-0 victory Friday was testimony to the cliche: You can’t lose if they don’t score . Not only couldn’t the Saxons score, they did precious little advancing of the football at Valencia High School.
It was the 22nd consecutive victory for the Aztecs, who are ranked second in Orange County, and it left them all alone atop the Empire League standings. The Saxons had entered the game in a first-place tie with Esperanza.
In all, Loara had 46 total yards--or 14 less than they accumulated in penalties. The Saxons got into Esperanza territory only once and that was after they intercepted a pass.
“Our defense gave us this ballgame,” Esperanza Coach Gary Meek said. “This one was because of what we did up front.”
This was not a game for quarterbacks, running backs, receivers or anyone else termed as a “skilled” position player. In fact, about the only skill necessary was brute strength.
The Aztecs (8-0, 3-0) didn’t give up a yard in the first quarter, as Loara was reduced to a chorus-line offense, 1-2-3-kick.
“Our front seven is the best, they proved that tonight,” wingback Marcus Tayui said.
Defensive end Jimmy Stewart was the most prominent of that group. He had two sacks, deflected a pass and killed Loara’s only serious threat.
Early in the third quarter, Loara’s Frank Wright intercepted a Josh Buscaglio pass and returned it to the Esperanza 39. The Saxons appeared on the verge of breaking out of their offensive doldrums, getting as far as the 28, where a holding penalty set them back.
On the following play, Stewart stepped in front of a Mister Albritton screen pass. Stewart intercepted the pass. End of threat.
“We come up with the big plays when we need them,” Stewart said.
Loara’s defense almost matched the Aztecs blow for blow. Esperanza had only 101 total yards. Seven times, the Aztecs got inside the 35, but they came away with only three scores.
Esperanza’s best offensive weapon was Tayui on punt returns. He returned five for 58 yards, two of which set up scores. Tayui also scored two touchdowns, both on one-yard runs.
“We knew we would be lucky to get three first downs rushing,” Meek said. “It was going to be a defensive battle.”
And the Aztecs had the muscle for that.