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El Modena remains hot behind Keefe, Lopez
ORANGE – Dillon Keefe rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns and Christian Lopez returned a fumble for a touchdown as El Modena defeated Sunny Hills, 35-13, Thursday in a CIF-Southern Section Division 8 first-round playoff game.
El Modena (10-1) advanced to next week’s second round in which the top-seeded Vanguards will play the winner of today’s Rio Mesa of Oxnard-San Dimas game. If Rio Mesa wins, it is the home team against El Modena. If San Dimas wins it will be an El Modena home game.
The Vanguards advanced to the Southern Division final last season. As part of the changes to the playoff format, the CIF-SS returned to labeling divisions numerically. The Southern Division was pretty much equivalent to what is Division 9 this year.
Sunny Hills finished 6-5. The Lancers took fourth in the Freeway League. They qualified for the playoffs as an at-large team.
El Modena has won six games in a row since a loss to Villa Park on Sept. 30. The Vanguards went 3-0 in the North Hills League to win the league championship.
El Modena coach Matt Mitchell had pregame concerns about what he called an uninspired week of practice.
“We proved him wrong,” said Lopez, a senior defensive back. “He was like, ‘I don’t know, you guys.’ And we said, ‘hey, we’ve got you, Coach.’”
Four Vanguards scored touchdowns Thursday. Keefe’s 29-yard touchdown run ended El Modena’s first possession of the game. He scored the team’s final touchdown on an 8-yard run in the fourth quarter.
In between, Lopez, who has a team-leading three interceptions, scored on a 61-yard fumble return late in the first quarter, receiver Justin Simpson scored on a 12-yard reverse, and receiver JP Walker scored on a crisp 18-yard touchdown pass from AJ Esperanza in the third quarter. Jordy Cruz was 5-for-5 on extra-point kicks.
Sunny Hills got TDs on a 3-yard run by QB Brenden Stanfill and on a 10-yard run by Alex Jung. Jung, a junior, rushed for 154 yards on 30 carries. He finished the season with 1,489 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns.
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