IRVINE — Shifty, slippery and determined, Estancia High tailback Christian Laurent consistently made the first tackler miss Friday night. The problem was that initial Irvine High defender usually brought company.
The result was a solid performance for Laurent, a junior transfer from Edison, and a 40-6 nonleague triumph for Irvine at Irvine High.
Laurent carried eight times and caught one flat pass in the Eagles' lone scoring drive, a 13-play, 85-yard procession that used nearly six minutes of the second quarter. The 5-foot-7, 160-pound Laurent, who had 222 rushing yards in last week's win over Ocean View, earned 53 rushing yards on the scoring drive and added two more on his only reception of the game. At one point in the march, he fielded either a handoff, pitch or pass on nine of 10 Estancia plays.
Laurent, who had 80 rushing yards on 17 carries in the first half, finished with 99 yards on 31 rushing attempts to up his season rushing total to 467 yards. He nearly reached triple figures, despite only two carries of more than six yards. He was swarmed in the backfield four times for losses and once more for no gain. One of those losses resulted in a safety as Irvine (3-0) asserted its strength in the trenches and also proved opportunistic.
Estancia (1-2), playing for the second game without senior two-way starter Jackson Letterman, who is also the team's long snapper, was twice victimized by errant punt snaps deep in its own territory.
Irvine turned the first snap over the punter's head into a one-play, 15-yard touchdown drive. The Vaqueros recovered the other high punt snap in the end zone for a touchdown.
The hosts went 40 yards on four plays with a second-quarter interception and scored on seven of their first nine possessions to leave Estancia Coach Mike Bargas wondering if he'd have been better off staying at home.
"We're young and it really showed tonight," Bargas said. "We're usually pretty physical but Irvine was more physical than we were. I'm not sure if we got a little bit better this week."
Estancia sophomore quarterback Connor Brown completed nine of 20 pass attempts for 74 yards, including a 12-yard scoring fade to Devon Jackson that pulled the Eagles within 21-6 with 3:14 left in the first half.
Jackson, despite having to fill in at cornerback when the usual starter couldn't answer the bell, had five receptions for 54 yards.
Irvine used 12 ballcarriers to produce 176 yards on the ground and junior quarterback Nathan Arellano connected on six of his eight pass attempts for 122 yards and one score. He had a second-quarter touchdown pass of 38 yards nullified by a holding penalty, one of nine Irvine infractions.
Irvine needed just 16 plays combined on its five possessions that ended in touchdowns (3.2 per scoring possession), including the aforementioned touchdown on the punt snap recovered in the end zone.
The Eagles will need to find someone to snap the ball consistently on punts, as Letterman, a fullback, linebacker and team captain, is out for the season, Bargas said, with a torn ACL and meniscus suffered in practice leading up to the Ocean View game.
"We just have to keep chipping away," Bargas said. "And its not going to get any easier. We have University next week, then Sonora, Costa Mesa and Laguna Beach, so we have to clean it up a little bit.
Estancia junior Tyler Thomas, whose dad, Chris Thomas, was a star football player at Irvine in the mid-1980s, had three carries for six yards, two receptions for nine yards, and was in on two tackles for loss from his outside linebacker spot.
Irvine 40, Estancia 6
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Estancia 0 - 6 -0 - 0 – 6
Irvine 14 – 10 – 16 – 0 – 40
Irv – Gray 22 run (Santos kick), 9:21.
Irv – Filia 15 run (Santos kick), 5:43.
Irv – Kim 2 run (Santos kick), 8:57.
Est – Jackson 12 pass from C. Brown (kick blocked), 3:14.
Irv – Santos 30 FG, 0:00.
Irv – Filia 14 pass from Arellano (Santos kick), 7:34.
Irv – Brito fumble recovery in end zone (Santos kick), 4:26.
Irv – Safety – runner tackled in end zone, 3:34.
Est – C. Laurent, 31-99.
Irv – Filia, 4-46, 1 TD.
Est – C. Brown, 9-20-1, 74, 1 TD.
Irv – Arellano, 6-8-0, 122, 1 TD.
Est – Jackson, 5-59, 1 TD.
Irv – Filia, 3-63, 1 TD.