El Modena's defense finishes off Esperanza


ORANGE – As Dillon Keefe picked up the ball and headed for the end zone with zeroes on the clock, the only question was what the final score would be.

El Modena, which had lost its past two games by one-point margins, had just earned the defensive stop that vanquished its fourth-quarter demons.

Led by Keefe’s two defensive touchdowns, the Vanguards defeated Esperanza, 20-7, Friday night in a nonleague game at El Modena High.

“We finally learned to finish,” Keefe said. “That’s what we needed to do the most. We were there when we needed it.”

No play exemplified Keefe’s words better than the Vanguards’ red-zone stop midway through the fourth quarter. Trailing, 14-7, Esperanza lined up for a fourth-and-1 from the El Modena 14. Patrick Campos (77 rushing yards) took the handoff, but was brought down on the left end by Clint Wodark.

On the ensuing drive, the Vanguards (4-2) kept the ball on the ground with Kenneth Lamb (100 rushing yards) and AJ Esperanza (93 rushing yards). El Modena left only 50 seconds for the Aztecs (1-5) to try to go 75 yards on their final drive, which ended with Keefe’s fumble-recovery score on a desperation hook-and-lateral play.

“No one’s going to let you get back up,” El Modena coach Ed Drzanek said. “You’re going to have to fight your way back up.”

El Modena lost to Yorba Linda last week on a fourth-quarter pick six. The tables turned for the Vanguards in the first quarter this time, when Keefe picked off a screen attempt by Trevor Markowitz for a 47-yard score.

The Vanguards led, 7-0, at halftime.

Blake Peters took a wide-receiver screen pass 62 yards to set up Campos’ game-tying touchdown in the third.

Esperanza answered with a 33-yard touchdown run to put El Modena in front, allowing the Vanguards’ defense to close the game out.

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