Defense Unexpectedly Saves Game for Loara
Loara Coach John deFries’ defense hadn’t done much to stop Western’s grind-it-out offense since the first quarter. So he wasn’t counting on his defensive unit in the fourth quarter with Western driving for a game-winning touchdown.
“I was already thinking about what I was going to do to get the ball down there again to score,” deFries said.
No need for deFries to worry. Defensive back Andy Guajardo made the play of the game when he stripped Western running back Damien Keoho of the ball and helped preserve Loara’s 28-20 victory.
“I think [Guajardo] just hit him and got the ball,” deFries said. “It was a great play.”
Loara was leading, 21-20, with seven minutes left when Guajardo made his big hit at his own 17. Guajardo (10 rushes, 63 yards, two touchdowns) clinched the victory 10 plays later when he took a pitch from quarterback Mike Morales and ran two yards for a touchdown. Guajardo’s touchdown was set up by Morales’ 77-yard pass to a wide open Oswaldo Ochoa (three catches, 119 yards), who ran to the six.
Loara jumped out to a 12-0 lead in the first quarter and appeared headed for an easy victory, but Cesar Valdivia’s 99-yard kickoff return turned the momentum and put a charge into Western’s sluggish offense, which had failed to gain a first down in its first two drives.
Western recovered a Loara fumble and scored on a Trevell Jackson one-yard run to take a 14-12 lead. Loara regained the lead six seconds before halftime on a 38-yard field goal from Jose Moreno.
Western kept its offensive momentum in the second half by taking advantage of mammoth offensive tackle Scott Vandygrift (6-5, 285). Loara took a 20-15 lead into the fourth quarter, but lost the lead with 10 minutes left when Morales scored on an eight-yard keeper to make it 21-20 Loara.
“Whoever had the ball last was going to win,” deFries said. “They couldn’t stop us and we couldn’t stop them. It was kind of a trade off.”
The only difference was that Loara held onto the ball in the second half and Western couldn’t seem to. Western had one last chance to tie the game after Guajardo’s scored to make it 28-20, but the Pioneer fullback Richard Mollinedo fumbled after catching a pass at Loara’s 45.