The gutsiest play of night came late in the game, with Los Amigos facing a fourth-and-two on Irvine's 16-yard line and trailing, 13-3. The Lobos called timeout to discuss their options. Should they try to muscle their way to a first down on the ground, or go through the air?
Senior quarterback Danny Hernandez took the snap out of the shotgun formation and faced immediate pressure both up the middle and off the edge from the Vaqueros' defense. Somehow, he managed to escape the pressure by gently folding his body between two defenders and sprinting right, towards the sideline, while scanning the field for an open receiver.
Showing the patience and poise of a seasoned veteran, Hernandez stopped just short of running out of bounds and fired a rocket to wide open senior wide receiver Alex Cruz for a seven-yard gain.
The completion took the Lobos inside the Vaqueros' 10-yard line and they scored two plays later on Hernandez's nine-yard bootleg.
"I just love football, and I love my team. I would do anything for them," Hernandez said when asked what drives him to succeed.
Said Irvine coach Erik Terry: “We said that to contain Los Amigos, you have to contain Danny Hernandez. We said all week to our players ‘12 [Hernandez’s number], he’s going to be the guy. If he has a big game, they will win.' So we tried to do a good job containing him. We knew he could beat us, we had to try to stop him, we knew that."
Hernandez completed 11 passes in 19 attempts for 155 yards with one interception. On the ground he ran the ball 13 times for 40 yards.
"He really wants to win and he kept trying to drive this ship to give us a chance to win this football game tonight,” Los Amigos coach Carl Agnew said. "He does get a little rattled every now and then but always finds a way to bounce back. He’s just a winner; he wants to win all the time.”
Unfortunately, wanting to win isn't always enough, and it wasn’t Thursday night as Irvine upended Los Amigos, 23-9, in a nonleague game at Garden Grove High. The victory improved the Vaqueros' record to 2-1 and dropped the Lobos, ranked No. 7 in the CIF Southern Section Southern Division coaches' poll, to 3-1.
"We knew that this game would be a sure test of where we were at," Agnew said of facing No. 10 Irvine. "All of a sudden tonight, we forgot where to line up on just about every single play. I’m not sure why, but we will go back and look at tape to get that fixed."
Said junior running back Jerry Saldivar: "They came out prepared to play and to stop our running game. We could have fixed a few things to run the ball better, but our line played well."
Saldivar carried 18 times for 74 yards.
Things looked promising in the early going for the Lobos as they marching the opening kickoff into Vaqueros territory. Frankie Valdez's 42-yard field goal gave them a 3-0 lead.
The Lobos' defense then forced a fumble and senior linebacker Angel Alvarez pounced on it at the Irvine 30. It appeared as if it was going to be the Lobos’ night, but two fake plays later left them short of scoring and they were forced to give up the ball to the Vaqueros. After one quarter of play, Los Amigos was ahead, 3-0, but that would be its last lead of the ballgame.
The second quarter belonged to Irvine as it ran 19 plays to Los Amigos’ eight. Two of those plays would hit paydirt -- an eight-yard screen pass from quarterback Ryan Goodman to running back Matt Canlas and a 60-yard romp by running back Kevin Torres.
Torres appeared to be down at one point of his run, but he was saved by his own balance and five fingers. Most of the Lobos defenders stopped before the whistle, allowing Torres to spring to his feet, and gracefully finish off his race to the end zone.
Everything that could go right for the Vaqueros in the second quarter did, and everything that could go wrong for the Lobos did. By the end of the first half, Irvine had turned the tables for a 13-3 lead.
"We played as hard as them," Hernandez said. "They were just better prepared. We had to play smarter than we did tonight."
Just when the Lobos showed enough determination to score a touchdown on Hernandez's bootleg that pulled them to within four points, Irvine responded with a 48-yard touchdown pass play from Goodman to running back Richard Caceres. It came one play after Caceres returned the Lobos' kickoff 30 yards to midfield.
That touchdown, which came with 3:30 left to play in the third quarter, seemed to take all the fight out of the Lobos, who never threatened again.
Hernandez completed passes to six different receivers, but junior Noe Perez led them all with two catches for 77 yards.
Goodman completed four of 11 passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns for Irvine, whose leading receiver was Caceres with 80 yards on two catches. Senior Kevin Torres gained 125 yards in eight carries.
Los Amigos' next game is Thursday, Sept. 29, against Santa Ana at Santa Ana Stadium.
“We will have a good game next week versus Santa Ana," Agnew predicted. "We will bounce back, get them prepped and ready to go, work them hard all week, and then try to get another victory to get back on a winning streak."