A controlled preseason afternoon scrimmage in your practice gear is far removed from the fanfare of Friday Night Lights. But Estancia High sophomore quarterback Connor Brown revealed on Friday that he might be more apt to dazzle than be dazzled when the Eagles open their football season Friday night on the road against Loara.
"I think he's so green, he has no fear right now," Estancia Coach Mike Bargas said of the tall, talented signal caller who threw four touchdown passes and ran for another touchdown to help the Eagles get the better of Bolsa Grande at Jim Scott Stadium.
Brown, whom Bargas said is "so young, he doesn't know how to be nervous or scared," displayed his inexperience when his first throw of the day wobbled noticeably before falling incomplete. But he completed seven of his final nine passes for 123 yards, including scoring tosses of 45, 33 and 20 yards, to help the Eagles build some confidence.
"He played very well," Bargas said of Brown, who scored on a one-yard sneak in a goal-line sequence that began at the Bolsa five-yard line and was sacked just once. "He showed some maturity, he stayed in the pocket, he threw some nice balls and the timing [of his passes] was decent. So, it was good for primarily a run team to have that pass threat also."
The Eagles, who were 7-4 last season and lost in the CIF Southern Section Southern Division quarterfinals, also ran effectively, with junior Edison transfer Christian Laurent doing most of the damage. Laurent, a small, elusive runner who showed great determination in traffic, ran for 115 yards on 15 carries. He had touchdown runs of one and two yards and broke free for additional gains of 26 and 21 yards.
Estancia also scored on the opening kickoff when a Bolsa Grande returner bobbled the ball in the end zone and was tackled for a safety after recovering by senior linebacker Jackson Letterman.
Estancia's defense and special teams also took turns shining.
Linebackers Letterman, Ronnie Urquiza and Tyler Thomas were among several defensive standouts that also included senior strong safety Zack Shafer, freshman cornerback Dylan Laurent and linemen Diego Herrera, Mark Velasquez, Arturo Ortega, Osvaldo Villafana and Juan Lozada.
Shafer delivered a big hit on a receiver to break up one would-be completion and later nearly intercepted another pass when he jumped a post route. He also tackled a receiver for no gain on a completion.
Dylan Laurent, Christian's younger brother and a projected starter, recovered a fumble, made several tackles after short completions and was generally in prime position in coverage.
Junior Dalton O'Daly and junior Jake Brown, Connor's older brother, also broke up passes in the secondary for Estancia, while Christian Laurent also displayed strong coverage.
O'Daly caught a 33-yard pass for a touchdown on an out pattern, Letterman made a nice run to turn a screen pass into a 45-yard scoring strike, Jake Brown fielded a 20-yard toss in the end zone and Thomas rumbled five yards after a plucking a deflected pass off the turf to account for Connor Brown's touchdown targets.
Edison transfer Indiana Taylor returned a kickoff about 70 yards during the special teams portion of play, which was otherwise broken down in alternating 10-play possessions from different starting field position. The sequences began from the teams' own 40-yard line, the opponents' 40, the opponents' 20 and the opponents' five-yard line.
Bolsa, which arrived late, delaying the start approximately 40 minutes, had its share of big plays on both sides of the ball. The Matadors intercepted a pass, recovered two fumbles and produced three short touchdown runs. One touchdown by the visitors came on a sequence that began at the Estancia 20 and another occurred in the goal-line series that began on the Eagles' five.
"We made a ton of mistakes, but there were a lot of good things," Bargas said. "Special teams were really good, I thought. I'm just really happy we had no major injuries."