By Jim Tortolano//Orange County Tribune
As is typical, Rancho Alamitos’ football team is again alone atop the Garden Grove League after a win Friday night.
What’s not so typical was how close the Vaqueros came to being unseated by a team that – until recently – dwelled in the bottom of the league.
“This is a much improved Bolsa Grande team,” said Rancho coach Mike Enright after his team edged the Matadors 21-20 in a key GGL contest at Bolsa Stadium.
Indeed, the Matadors, who were 1-9 as recently as 2019, gave the four-time defending league champs all they could handle, falling short by just a few inches. Mike Acosta’s team clearly came to play.
Bolsa jumped into the lead on a TD pass from Ethan Nguyen to Phu Nguyen but failed on a two-point conversion to take an early 6-0 lead. Rancho countered at the 4:39 mark of the first quarter on a quarterback keeper by Chris Hurley.
The extra point kick – the first of three by Matt Sanchez – put the green-and-gold into a 7-6 lead that would eventually feature into the outcome.
Leaning on the elusive speed of Angel Diaz, the Vaqueros took a short Bolsa punt at the 47-yard and five plays later Diaz took it in from the 3-yard line and a 14-6 Rancho lead at 9:08 of the second period.
The Mats struck back with a 35-yard scoring pass with 35 seconds left before halftime, and knotted it up at 14-all with a quarterback keeper for the 2-point conversion.
Bolsa grabbed its second lead of the night early in the third quarter. The interception of a Rancho pass at the 47-yard line gave the Mats the ball in good field position.
What followed was a seven-play drive culminated by a an 11-yard touchdown pass from Ethan Nguyen to Eddie Zarate. The conversion attempt – an off-tackle play – was stopped just short of the goal line and the home team held a 20-14 lead at the 7:14 mark of the third quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter the Vaqueros connected on a 45-yard scoring pass to knot the score at 20-all, and Sanchez’ PAT sealed the deal.
Did the hard-fought win clear the way for the Vaqs’ fifth straight Grove League title?
Not likely, noted Enright. “Every team in the league is gunning for us. It’s going to be tough the rest of the way,” he said.
Tough like Bolsa, perhaps.
Categories: High school sports