IRVINE — The announcer saluted the Estancia High football team for its effort after Thursday night's game.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, effort alone wouldn't put points on the scoreboard against Northwood.
The Estancia offense, minus senior Omar Gutierrez for most of the game, managed no points as the Eagles lost their third straight nonleague contest, 31-7, at Irvine High.
"We've got to find a way to put the ball in the end zone," Estancia Coach Mike Bargas said. "We fought hard in the second half; it's just a hard deficit when you've got to score three times. But our kids fought hard … we just couldn't punch it in when we needed to. That's really it in a nutshell."
Bargas said Gutierrez, a senior tight end and linebacker who is one of the team's leading receivers, injured his back on the Eagles' first series of the game. The third-and-11 play was a double whammy for Estancia (1-3), as Northwood's Alex King sacked the quarterback and forced a fumble that teammate Kyler Johnson recovered at the Estancia 39.
"He hurt his back," Bargas said of Gutierrez, a two-time Newport-Mesa Dream Team performer. "I don't know if he took a helmet or something like that. We didn't know he was hurt, and that's when we gave up the sack. He was bent over, but it's not his fault. He took a shot."
Gutierrez did not return to the game. Meanwhile, the Timberwolves (2-2) took advantage of the field position with a field goal.
Estancia grabbed its first and only score on special teams. On the ensuing kickoff, senior Austin Abernathy took the short kick back 81 yards for a touchdown. But the Eagles' 7-3 lead was short-lived, as two plays later, Northwood senior Shane Boukorras scored the first of his two rushing touchdowns, from 57 yards out.
From there, Estancia struggled offensively. Sophomore tailback Robert Murtha (73 yards on 25 carries) battled admirably, but the Eagles were rarely able to break off a long run or establish themselves on a long drive.
Without a passing game, it was particularly hard for the Eagles to come back from what was a 17-point deficit for nearly the whole second half. Bargas, wanting a spark, put in sophomore quarterback Brad Wilson for a couple of series. The Eagles, though, never seriously threatened, never getting the ball into the red zone.
Estancia is averaging less than nine points per game during its losing streak.
"They were packing them in [to the box]," Bargas said. "Everybody's going to target Robert. He's a sophomore, and we like to run the football. I don't know if it took us out of our game with Omar going down. It certainly helps having a three-year starter at tight end."
Boukorras finished with 172 yards and two touchdowns, part of a 284-yard rushing effort for Northwood. Junior quarterback Ricky Bautista also passed for two touchdowns, although the Eagles held the Timberwolves to just a lone touchdown in the second half.
The Eagles play Beckman next week before opening Orange Coast League play against defending champion Laguna Beach on Oct. 15.
"We're just trying to get ready for league," Bargas said. "I'm proud of the guys for playing hard in the second half."
Northwood 31, Estancia 7
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Estancia 7 – 0 – 0 – 0 — 7
Northwood 17 – 7 – 0 – 7 — 31
Nor – Hyman 23 FG, 5:25.
Est – Abernathy 81 kickoff return (Diego kick), 5:11.
Nor – Boukorras 57 run (Hyman kick), 4:30.
Nor – Boukorras 9 run (Nellesen kick), 1:15.
Nor – King 10 pass from Bautista (Hyman kick), 4:48.
Nor –Neiber 28 pass from Bautista (Nellesen kick), 5:46.
Est – Murtha, 25-73.
Nor – Boukorras, 16-172, 2 TDs.
Est – Diego, 5-11-1, 34.
Nor – Bautista, 12-19-0, 162, 2 TDs.
Est – Gutierrez, 2-30.
Nor – Zorn, 7-96.