Esperanza rallies, wins opener at Irvine


IRVINE – Esperanza rallied with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to defeat Irvine, 22-15, Friday night in a nonleague game at Irvine in the opener for both teams.

“We had 19 new starters this year,” said first-year Esperanza coach Tommy Storing. “It showed in the first half a little. But in the second half, we played incredible.”

Irvine led, 15-7, going into the final quarter.

But the Aztecs came back to tie the score with 8:45 left.

Junior running back Hayden Winters, in his first varsity start, led the way. “For Hayden’s first start, he did better than any back I’ve ever seen,” Storing said.

Winters rushed for 180 yards on 25 carries and helped the Aztecs close the gap to 15-13 on a 6-yard TD run with 8:45 left in the game. Kaipo Garcia ran in for the 2-point conversion to tie the game.

Esperanza (1-0) got the ball back following an Irvine fumble at the Vaqueros’ 19-yard line. Four plays later, Jake McPherson plunged over from a yard out with 4:37 left to put Esperanza ahead, 22-15.

Irvine (0-1) moved the ball near midfield but turned it over with 1:51 left.

Irvine took the opening lead when sophomore quarterback Dylan Stricker connected with Harold King on a 38-yard touchdown pass midway through the first quarter. The Vaqueros converted a 2-point play to make it 8-0.

Winters scored on a 35-yard TD with 4:44 left in the first quarter to cut Irvine’s lead to 8-7.

Irvine regained the lead, 15-7, on a 3-yard TD run by Zeke Alleman with 8:06 left in the second quarter.

Stricker passed for 148 yards in his first varsity start for Irvine.

“I thought we played our hearts out,” said Irvine coach Erik Terry. “It was a typical first game, a fumble here and a penalty here and there, but if we get rid of that stuff, it might be a different game.”

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