SAN BERNARDINO — The Estancia High offense finally got something going in the third quarter of its season-opening nonleague football game Friday at Aquinas High.
But by then, it was merely a futile attempt to keep up with the Joneses.
Aquinas brothers Jimmy and Bobbie Jones combined to score 22 of the Falcons’ 28 consecutive points carrying into the third quarter, and they finished with 23 points and a bushel of impressive statistics to lead the hosts to a 35-13 victory.
Jimmy Jones, a junior receiver, caught a 57-yard touchdown bomb late in the first half and kicked two extra points to help the hosts build a 14-0 halftime lead.
Then on Estancia’s second-half kickoff, Jimmy Jones took a reverse handoff from older brother Bobbie, a senior tailback, and ran 91 yards for a touchdown to put the Eagles in an even bigger hole.
Jimmy Jones recovered from his long-distance romp quickly enough to add the PAT.
After Estancia followed with its sixth consecutive offensive series of no more than three plays (five three-and-out sequences and one in which time ran out in the second quarter after three plays), Bobbie Jones capped a five-play, 50-yard scoring drive with a 14-yard touchdown run. Jimmy Jones added the PAT and it was 28-0 Falcons.
But Estancia, which lost to Aquinas, 35-7, in last season’s opener, finally generated a spark on the ensuing possession.
Senior tailback Carlos Mendez, the Co-Most Valuable Player in the Orange Coast League last season, when he rushed for a school single-season record 1,584 yards, finally began finding some running room behind an inexperienced offensive line.
Mendez, who gained 19 yards on 10 first-half carries, doubled his output for the game when he darted 24 yards off right tackle to the Aquinas 26-yard line. Two plays later, quarterback Radames Gutierrez hit tight end Eli Diego for a 17-yard touchdown pass to put the Eagles on the scoreboard.
After the Estancia defense held on downs to give its offense the ball back, the visitors drove 69 yards on 10 plays to pull to within 28-13 with 8:49 left in the game.
Mendez capped the march with a 30-yard touchdown run.
Gutierrez then recovered a fumble caused by Jason Moreno’s hit on a receiver to give the Eagles a chance to cut further into the lead, but they were unable to get anything else going offensively and Aquinas tacked on another touchdown to finalize its win.
Jimmy Jones finished with five catches for 105 yards, 134 more yards on three kickoff returns and also had an interception to halt Estancia’s final possession.
Bobbie Jones finished with 57 rushing yards on eight carries and added three receptions for 52 yards. He also sparkled in the secondary.
Mendez finished with 106 yards on 19 carries, while Gutierrez completed six of 14 passes for 47 yards, with one interception.
Diego led the Eagles’ receivers with two catches for 23 yards.
Aquinas was also bolstered by the hard running of fullback JP Ragan (159 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries), as well as a strong varsity starting debut by senior quarterback Stirewalt (220 passing yards on 13-of-22 with no interceptions).
“We got a lot of big plays from a lot of guys,” said Aquinas Coach John Henderson, who noted he had four starters sidelined for various reasons. “It was a close game, as it was, and it would have been even closer, had we not gotten so many big plays. Give Estancia credit, they battled.”
Estancia Coach Mike Bargas said his team showed some bright spots, but he was disappointed with the lack of productivity on offense.
“I don’t think we got a first down in the first half [actually the lone first down was produced on a scramble to end the second quarter],” Bargas said. “Our offense wasn’t able to keep our defense off the field. And that kickoff return [for a touchdown] really took some wind out of our sails.”
Another highlight for the Eagles was the punting of Diego, who averaged 41.2 yards on five boots, including back-to-back efforts of 49 and 45 yards in the first half.
Estancia’s defensive highlight came in the first quarter, when it held Aquinas scoreless after the Falcons had first-and-goal at the 1-yard line.
Moreno broke up a pass attempt, and senior Jose Padilla led a group of tacklers to stuff a run for a two-yard loss in the sequence that included two Aquinas penalties and ended with a missed 30-yard field-goal attempt.
BARRY FAULKNER may be reached at (714) 966-4615 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.