Estancia defense answers the bell in win over La Quinta
Estancia football coach Mike Bargas lit up when discussing his team’s defense, which was nothing short of praiseworthy after the first half it put forth.
Playing without both their leading passer and rusher until the second half, the Eagles’ defense yielded only a field goal before the break.
That gave quarterback Riley Witte and running back Isaiah Brown — among three players Bargas said sat out the first half for violating team rules — a chance to make amends.
Witte needed just four plays to get into the end zone, and Estancia went on to beat Westminster La Quinta 14-3 on Friday in a nonleague game at Jim Scott Stadium.
“They did amazing,” Bargas said of the Eagles’ defense. “They’re the ones that kept us in the game the whole time. They did a great job. Shoot, we couldn’t ask for anything better, other than not allowing those three points, but they kept pinning them back.”
Facing the Wing-T offense of La Quinta (3-2), the Eagles found their defense on the field for extended stretches. The Aztecs held onto the ball for nearly eight minutes to begin the game, running 33 plays to just 10 for Estancia (3-1) in the first half.
Michael Palacios’ 24-yard field goal as time ran out in the first half finally broke a scoreless deadlock, which had seen Aztecs cornerback John Tong intercept Heriberto Sanchez-Martinez twice. Bargas gave credit to the Eagles’ backup quarterback for running the offense, noting that Sanchez-Martinez didn’t learn he was going to start until Friday afternoon.
Through the first half, Estancia’s defensive front featuring Ryan Carrasco, Steve Sanchez and Jose Anguiano faced 28 running plays, while Eagles defenders were called upon to make 30 tackles.
“I think it’s a testament to our conditioning,” Carrasco said. “We worked really hard in practice, so we were ready. We were ready to have a long, drawn-out battle.”
Brown rushed for eight yards on the first play after halftime. The next saw Witte fire a deep ball up the left sideline to Brandon Bettinghausen, who made a shoe-string catch for a 40-yard gain.
“It motivated our team a lot,” said Bettinghausen, who credited Witte for the downfield throw. “It just boosted our team morale and gave us more hope.”
Two plays later, Witte made magic happen on a broken play. After the snap got behind him, he picked up the ball and found Joseth Zarate-Groth in the back of the end zone to give Estancia a 7-3 lead.
“I already saw the defense,” said Witte, who said he learned a lesson after sitting out the first half. “I took my eyes off the snap for a second, and the ball went around. Then Joe, he did a little option route on the corner, so then I just found him and threw it to him.”
A failed field-goal attempt followed another long drive for La Quinta, as Palacios was tackled after taking off with the ball.
Andru Durazo’s 62-yard reception was the big play on Estancia’s next possession, which ended in another scoring toss from Witte to Zarate-Groth.
Julian Muro and Brown secured fumble recoveries for Estancia on defense. Jeff Brown started at running back, turning eight carries into 45 yards.
La Quinta’s Cooper Starnes had a game-high 97 rushing yards.
Orange Coast League play lies ahead. Estancia will line up across from Santa Ana in a home game on Sept. 22.
Estancia 14, La Quinta 3
SCORE BY QUARTERS
La Quinta 0 - 3 - 0 - 0 - 3
Estancia 0 - 0 - 7 - 7 - 14
LQ - Palacios 24 FG, 0:00.
E - Zarate-Groth 10 pass from Witte (Sanchez kick), 10:28.
E - Zarate-Groth 8 pass from Witte (Sanchez kick), 8:46.
LQ - Starnes, 22-97; Tran, 15-50.
E - I. Brown, 9-59; J. Brown, 8-45.
LQ - Clark, 6-12-0, 62.
E - Witte, 4-5-0, 120, 2 TDs.
LQ - Palacios, 4-28; Tran, 1-24.
E - Durazo, 1-62; Bettinghausen, 1-40; 2. Zarate-Groth, 2-18, 2 TDs.
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