El Modena in semifinals for 3rd year in row


OXNARD – The El Modena football team is headed back to a familiar place next week.

For the third consecutive year, the Vanguards will be in the semifinals of their division, this time, thanks to Friday night’s 35-21 road victory over Rio Mesa in the CIF-SS Division 8 playoffs.

El Modena’s season has come to an end in the semifinals the previous two years.

The goal this year is to finally get over that hump and El Modena running back Dillon Keefe knows the recipe.

“Effort,” Keefe said. “Everybody has to give it 100 percent in practice, in the game and it comes down to heart.”

That’s a good way to describe El Modena’s performance Friday.

El Modena (11-1) will visit Yorba Linda next week in the semifinals.

The Vanguards, who were playing without their leading wide receiver, Frankie Islas, received a strong effort on the ground from Keefe (206 yards) and Andrew Carvajal (120 yards) and a solid night of work from the defensive unit to come out on top.

Both Keefe and Carvajal had two rushing touchdowns apiece. Gio Peralta had the other. The defense had to contend with an up-tempo, spread attack, but held its own all game, forcing Rio Mesa quarterback Austin Maciel into several hurried throws.

“Defensively, I think we played one of best defensive games in a long time,” El Modena coach Matt Mitchell said.

For the majority of the second half, the Vanguards had to protect their one-score lead. A third-quarter touchdown by Rio Mesa cut El Modena’s lead to 21-14. After a three-and-out by the offense, the Vanguards forced a turnover to keep the Spartans at bay.

Carvajal gave the Vanguards a 28-14 lead on a 6-yard touchdown with 1:35 left. Rio Mesa answered with a touchdown with 39 seconds remaining, but Carvajal eventually applied the finishing touch with a 44-yard touchdown run 20 seconds later.

“We knew it was going to be a very tough game,” El Modena quarterback A.J. Esperanza said. “... Those guys are a hard-nosed football team. We came in, practiced all week and got it done.

“Our defense has been big for us all year, they kept us in this game all night and we did enough on offense to get the win.”

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