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Walnut football’s comeback effort falls short against Esperanza

WALNUT — With less than a minute remaining and the Walnut High School football team trailing by a single point, Esperanza’s Jesse Duensing erased any hope of a Mustangs’ comeback win.

Duensing’s two-yard run on fourth-and-one and his 28-yard touchdown run on the ensuing play gave Esperanza the sepration it needed in a 28-20 victory.

After Walnut ran all over the Garey defense for 193 rushing yards a week ago in a 34-0 season-opening victory, the Mustangs (1-1) were unable to contain Deunsing and Esperanza’s unrelenting rushing attack.

Duensing rushed for 122 of his 156 total yards in the second half and found the endzone twice, an 18-yard touchdown run and the late score in the final minute to seal it.

“You just gotta do your job on defense,” Walnut head football coach Eric Peralta said of trying to stop a talented running back like Deunsing. “You have to be able to be stout up front and put 11 hats on the football. (Deunsing) is a good running back. He ran hard. Ran behind that big offensive line and found little seams. He’s got good vision and cut-back ability.”

Walnut trailed 14-6, but battled back, thanks in part to several key defensive stops by its defense, including a huge sack on fourth-and-5 late in the third quarter to keep the Aztecs from extending their lead and forcing a turnover-on-downs.

That stop allowed Walnut senior quarterback Sal Quintanilla to go to work. His four-yard touchdown run and a successful pass completion on the ensuing two-point conversion tied the score, 14-14.

Esperanza (1-1) answered back with a touchdown on the next drive, capping a seven-play drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass by Aztecs junior quarterback David Lua. Lua found sophomore wide receiver Edward Khutsishvili in the middle of the endzone to give Esperanza a 21-14 lead with about six minutes remaining.

But, the Mustangs would not go quietly as they needed just three plays to tie the game again after a huge kickoff return by senior Ethan Acosta-Elizalde gave Walnut a short field inside the Esperanza 20.

Quintanilla’s 16-yard run set up his one-yard touchdown, his third score of the game. The Mustangs tried to take the lead on the two-point conversion, but their run attempt came up short, leaving them trailing 21-20.

“I think we followed the game plan and stayed the course,” Esperanza head football coach J.P. Presely. “Hats off to Walnut. They played us tough and they put a lot of pressure on us when we took an early lead. But we stayed on the game plan of putting the ball in Duensing’s hands.”

Esperanza’s first-half game plan was simple — dominate the time of possession. The Aztecs successfully did just that in the first half as four different ball carriers finished with a total of 96 first-half rushing yards. Deunsing opened the scoring early and gave Esperanza the lead on its opening drive.

The senior running back found the endzone on his first carry of the game. On the second play from scrimmage, scampered away from a few Mustang defenders for the 18-yard rushing touchdown, giving Esperanza a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

Esperanza doubled its lead on the following offensive series, capping a 14-play, nearly seven-minute drive early into the second quarter. Four different ball carriers rushed on the drive before pounding in a two-yard touchdown run into the endzone, giving Esperanza a 14-0 with 11:02 remaining in the first half.

Walnut struggled most of the first half to move the ball down the field, with the exception of one drive — the Mustangs’ lone touchdown drive. Walnut’s first-half offensive production relied on the arm and legs of Quintanilla. The senior quarterback extended plays with his legs and did so with much success on the Mustangs’ only scoring drive of the first half.

Quintanilla shimmied away from a couple of pass rushers before firing in an 11-yard touchdown pass just minutes before halftime.

“That’s what (Quintanilla does),” Peralta said of his quarterback. “His ability to extend plays and show his escapability is a great weapon for us.”

The Mustangs’ quarterback finished with three touchdowns and threw for 123 yards on 9-of-16 pass attempts.

 

 

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