PREP FOOTBALL / ORANGE LEAGUE : Imperfections Hardly Faze Western


Western remained unbeaten, but it was far from perfect Thursday night.

Mike Mueller rushed for two fourth-quarter touchdowns and host Western beat Magnolia, 31-14, in an Orange League opener.

Western (6-0, 1-0) led, 17-0, and was driving toward another score when the Pioneers fumbled on a reverse. Magnolia's Phillip Stentz picked up the ball and dashed 75 yards to cut the lead to 17-7, with 3 minutes 51 seconds left in the third quarter.

Magnolia's Sam Uai blocked a punt and recovered at the Western 19 with 11:35 left in the game. Uai's task was made much easier because Western was missing the left wing from its punting team.

Carlos Martin then carried on the next four plays, scoring a touchdown on a nine-yard run. The play cut the lead to 17-14 with 9:53 left, but Martin was hit hard at the goal line and had to be helped off the field.

The loss of Martin, who also is an inside linebacker, was apparent the next two times Western had the the ball.

The Pioneers needed only six plays, all rushes, to move 60 yards for a touchdown and a 24-14 lead. The key run was made by David Bell, who broke up the middle for 33 yards to give Western a first down at the Magnolia 14.

Mueller carried it in from the seven with 7:07 left. Bell led Western with 107 yards in nine carries. Bell, who came into the game with 59 yards rushing this season, was called on more often than usual because Sergio Garcia was hurt. Garcia, who leads the team with 409 yards, was poked in his left eye on his first carry and didn't return.

Bell also kicked a 43-yard field goal and four extra points.

"We just sputtered around," Western Coach Jim Howell said. "We didn't do what we wanted to do. We'll have to execute better."

Western also got a strong performance from senior tight end Vince Branstetter. He caught six passes for 114 yards, including a 60-yarder for a touchdown. On the play, Western quarterback Dean Chambers rolled well to his right then threw back across the field to Branstetter who outjumped two Magnolia players at the 25.

Branstetter then used two powerful straight arms to push away defenders on his way to the end zone for a 17-0 lead with 8:15 left in the third quarter.

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