Western shakes off loss to run past Saddleback

Western High’s football team was coming off two consecutive tough losses. Each time, the Pioneers had missed opportunities late in the game to win or tie the games, but those chances slipped away.

Returning home to face Saddleback, Head Coach Dan Davidson said the coaching staff was focused on getting the team settled in on a short week. By the end of the first quarter, the Pioneers were back on track as they pulled away from Saddleback for a 31-0 non-league win on Thursday at Western High.

“I really credit the guys, they started picking themselves up,” Davidson said.

Things started a little slow for the Pioneers, but by the end of the first quarter they seemed to have gotten their feet underneath them and began to move the ball more effectively. Davidson said once the players settled in, they began to run the ball better, which opened up the offense. Rahsaan Hester paced the running game with 55 yards of the Pioneers’ 105 total rushing yards. Jacob Domino had 26 rushing yards and a touchdown.

The running game was enough to open up the passing game, where quarterback Anthony Munoz threw for 339 yards and three touchdowns. Senior John Ojelabi had 111 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Caine Savage had 106 yards receiving and James Mendoza had six catches for 65 yards and a touchdown.

The Pioneers led just 15-0 at halftime, but opened the second half with a scoring drive that gave their defense a comfortable 22-0 lead. The Pioneers drove 65 yards in seven plays, ensuring the Roadrunners would not be able to swing the momentum in their favor in the second half.

Hester had a key play when he broke a 16-yard run that took the ball down to the Saddleback 37 yard line. One play later, Munoz found Caine Savage down the right sideline to set the offense up at the one yard line. Domino finished the drive with a one-yard run for the touchdown.

On the Pioneers’ next possession, they drove 75 yards in 12 plays, with Munoz and Ojelabi capping the drive with a 32-yard catch and run for the touchdown. Munoz and Ojelabi also connected on passes of 14 and 13 yards on the drive.

The Pioneers improved to 2-2 with the win, with their two losses coming by a total of 10 points. Davidson said that while team knows it was a play or two from being 4-0, he also said they have plenty of areas they want to improve upon for the second half of the season.

The Pioneers are off next week, and then will renew their rivalry with Anaheim High in the Battle for the Bell game. After that, Empire League begins and the league is shaping up to be a brutal gauntlet. Davidson said the team expects to have most of it injured players back in two week, but they have work to do.

“We have a lot to work on, definitely defensively on the inside and we have to sustain blocks,” Davidson said.

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Anthony Munoz threw for 339 yards and three touchdowns.

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