For six weeks Los Alamitos was the No. 1 high school football team in the country, according to USA Today. Well, today they are not even the top team in the Sunset League.
Esperanza ended the Griffins' run at a mythical national championship with a 21-17 upset Friday before a standing-room-only crowd of 6,000 at Valencia High.
Jamal Footman's 29-yard touchdown run with 5:02 left in the fourth quarter gave the Aztecs (5-2, 2-0 in league) their first victory over Los Alamitos since 1991. But it was the defense that inspired Esperanza to victory. The Aztecs sacked Los Alamitos quarterback Kevin Feterik 11 times. He finished with minus-62 yards rushing.
"We were skeptical of their No. 1 ranking," said Footman, who finished with 118 yards in 28 carries. "I know people doubted us after the loss to [Chino Hills] Ayala, but this win gives us our credibility."
Footman's scoring run around the right end came after Esperanza quarterback David Parrish--who, despite two interceptions, passed for 159 yards--changed the original play at the line of scrimmage.
"I saw they were stacked up to the left," Parrish said. "We were supposed to go that way but went to the other side.
"We had a bad taste in our mouth for a year after losing [35-32 in the last minute last season]. Tonight ended a lot of frustration."
The loss ended a 19-game league winning streak for Los Alamitos (6-1, 1-1), and was only the Griffins' second defeat in the last 54 games.
Los Alamitos only led once, going ahead 17-14 in the third quarter on a 23-yard touchdown run by Ryan Gragnano.
"Tonight they just got after us," Griffin Coach John Barnes said. "We started slow, but they came and won the game. That's life. I'd rather lose now than later."
The Aztecs' plan to pressure Feterik, who still passed for 247 yards and a touchdown, worked from the game's third play.
Esperanza sacked Feterik six times in the first half. Tackle Sean Jarne, who had two of them, raised havoc with the Griffin blockers.
And the Aztecs' offense met little resistance from the Los Alamitos defense en route to a two-touchdown lead.
In the first quarter, Parrish completed a 30-yard pass to Ryan Wilkins, who was stopped inside the one-yard line. Parrish then finished the 67-yard, nine-play drive with a one-yard plunge for the score.
Wilkins caught seven passes for 90 yards.
Esperanza was still rolling in the second quarter, marching 60 yards in nine plays, with Jamal Footman churning through the middle for a five-yard touchdown run that staked the Aztecs to a 14-0 edge.
By the time Esperanza got to halftime, though, the lead was down to four.
Despite the constant harassment, Feterik got enough time to hook up with Stan Guyness on a 59-yard touchdown. Guyness,who caught six passes for 128 yards, hauled in Feterik's 50-yard throw, shook off a defender at the nine and ran into the end zone to cut the score to 14-7.
Los Alamitos made the score 14-10 on a 28-yard field goal by Mike Phillips with two seconds left in the half.