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SANTA ANA — El Modena’s defense made big plays when in needed to Friday in a nonleague game against Santa Ana at Santa Ana Stadium.
But there was no play bigger than the fourth-down stop by Owen Smith and Alex Luna, which preserved a 19-14 victory for the Vanguards.
On the fourth-and-goal play from the El Modena 7, Saints quarterback Sergio Torres completed a short pass to Imanol Torres at the 3, but before he could turn up field and make a run for the end zone, Luna and Smith tackled the receiver in his tracks.
The Vanguards (1-0) took over and ran out the clock.
Sergio Torres’ favorite target had been Raymond Casillas, who had 10 receptions, but the Saints (1-1) went with the element of surprise by throwing to Imanol Torres.
“We were nervous about No. 10 (Casillas),” Smith said. “Number 10 was killing us the whole game. I saw as soon as the play started (Imanol Torres) started going out. I tried to make a play on it and happened to get there in time. We worked hard that whole game. It was a nail-biter”
The three plays prior to the fourth-down stop resulted in a 2-yard loss and two incompletions.
The Saints put themselves in a position to potentially win the game by recovering a fumble on their 33 with 1:50 left in the game.
Santa Ana had also recovered a fumble on their 23 with 8:49 left in the game.
In that series, Luna came up with a big play by batting away a fourth-down pass at the El Modena 22 that had been intended for Casillas.
“We had to battle some adversity, with turnovers and things like that,” El Modena coach Matt Mitchell said. “We’re a young team, so it’s good to get a little momentum going early in the season like this. It was an exciting game. We knew going in it was going to be a four-quarter, 48-minute game.”
El Modena took a 13-0 lead into the third quarter, but a 33-yard touchdown run by Jason Costa finally got the Saints on the board.
The Vanguards came right back with a 60-yard scoring drive, capped by a 1-yard touchdown run from Smith, to put El Modena back up by two scores.
Costa’s second touchdown run, this one for 3 yards, made it one-score game again with 9:40 remaining in the contest.
That’s when the Vanguards’ defense took over, keeping the Saints from scoring.
“It came down to that last play, but there were a lot of plays throughout the game,” Saints coach Charlie TeGantvoort said. “There were probably a dozen plays in that game, that if it went the other way, we would have won. We need to learn from this, and that way, the next time, we get it going our way. We don’t want to rely on chance. We want to rely on hard work and toughness.”
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