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El Modena football escapes with win over Pasadena in Division 3 playoffs

ORANGE — El Modena outlasted a tough Pasadena team for a 15-14 win Thursday in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 football playoffs at El Modena High.

Pasadena (9-2) had the ball inside the El Modena 20-yard line with around two minutes remaining in the game. On third down, El Modena defensive back Sam Astor intercepted a pass to ensure the victory for the Vanguards. It was the second interception of the game for Astor.

“It looked like their passing game was going to drive down the field but our coaches dialed up the perfect coverage and my teammates were in the right spot,” Astor said. “That left the ball up there for me to get it.”

“The defense has played well all year,” El Modena coach Matt Mitchell said. “They came up huge in a situation when we needed a big play.”

El Modena (11-0) will play the winner of Saturday’s game between Vista Murrieta and Bishop Diego in the second round next week. The Vanguards will be on the road regardless of who wins that game.

Owen Smith ran for 102 yards on 25 carries with two touchdowns to lead the El Modena offense. Sophomore quarterback Xzavior Guess ran for 75 yards and threw for 42 yards.

“We kind of had the idea we might end up running the ball more because of the athleticism in the secondary for them,” Mitchell said. “We had a good game plan and the offensive line executed up front.”

After a failed fake punt attempt by El Modena on the game’s opening drive, Pasadena went on a 53-yard scoring drive capped by an 11-yard touchdown pass from Indiana Wijay to Baylin Brooks to put the Bulldogs in front 7-0.

Wijay completed 19 of 27 passes for 128 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Brooks, a San Diego State commit, caught eight passes for 94 yards.

El Modena responded with a touchdown drive of its own that ended with a 2-yard run by Smith. After an encroachment penalty on Pasadena, El Modena opted to try a 2-point attempt. Smith ran it in for the successful 2-point attempt to give El Modena an 8-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Pasadena linebacker Torriq Brumfield intercepted an El Modena pass and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown to give Pasadena a 14-8 lead with just under 9 minutes remaining in the 2nd quarter.

El Modena went on an 11-play, 71-yard scoring drive capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Smith to give the Vanguards a 15-14 lead entering the half.

Both teams made mistakes on offense in the second half. El Modena had a fumble in its own territory that was recovered by Jonathan Meza of Pasadena.

On the ensuing Pasadena possession, Astor intercepted a pass but offsetting penalties caused the officials to deliberate for 12 minutes whether El Modena would keep the ball or they would replay the down.

Pasadena faced third down and short yardage to go in the fourth quarter, but an errant snap caused the Bulldogs to lose 27 yards to force a punt.

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