El Modena's Frankie Islas is dragged down by Yorba Linda's Brevin Smith, right, after a completed pass play in the first half.

El Modena grinds out victory over Yorba Linda


ORANGE – Andrew Carvajal left. A.J. Esperanza middle. Dillon Keefe right.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

After playing a wonky first half Friday night, El Modena returned from the locker room and leaned on its short-yardage offense to wear down the opponent.

Keefe, the do-everything senior, had three touchdown runs in the second half, and Christian Lopez converted a key interception into points as the Vanguards defeated Yorba Linda, 42-21, at El Modena High.

“We had no effort in the first half, bad, bad energy,” said Keefe, who also had an interception after the break. “We could see it ourselves, but it took Coach to try to get us to turn it around.”

El Modena (4-1) ran only 18 meaningful plays in the first two quarters.

Lopez, a senior receiver, scored on the team’s first offensive snap, but the Vanguards went punt, missed field goal, punt, punt to close the half.

But after intermission, the hosts used their rushing offense to pull even with Yorba Linda at 14-14 and at 21-21.

Following Keefe’s fourth-quarter interception, Esperanza threw El Modena ahead for good – his 41-yard TD pass to a streaking Frankie Islas as gorgeous a throw as any this coaching staff has seen from its junior quarterback all season.

“We prepare for that (play) all the time in practice,” Vanguards coach Matt Mitchell said.

With the lead, Lopez scored on his interception return. El Modena’s defense then recovered a fumble and Keefe scored on a short run.

“Exciting,” Keefe, who finished with 71 rushing yards, said when asked what it feels like when his offense is imposing its will on a defensive line. “You can trust every player on your team on every play.”

Yorba Linda (4-1) was without injured running backs Mason Winter and Jonah Slack. Still, Jaydyn Webb ran for 143 yards behind a game offensive line.

Mustangs receiver Ricky Lane led all players with 103 receiving yards, and Luke Adams had five catches. Quarterback Luke Wilson threw for 210 yards.

“This (win) is a big confidence booster for us,” said Mitchell, whose team began the week ranked No. 2 in Division 8. “I know we haven’t beat them in quite some time.”

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