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    El Dorado football team overcomes tough times to beat Foothill
    • October 6, 2023

    TUSTIN – El Dorado football coach Zach La Monda was asked before the Golden Hawks played Foothill on Thursday night to list all of the injuries to starters on his team.

    It was a long answer.

    The Golden Hawks managed to play one of their best games of the season in a 41-19 win over Foothill at Tustin High in the final nonleague game for both teams.

    El Dorado junior running back J.P. Murray rushed for 128 yards and four touchdowns. He scored on runs of 4 and 13 yards in the first half and of 1 and 40 yards in the second half. Senior quarterback Nate Bento passed for 166 yards and rushed for 140 yards and a touchdown.

    Foothill quarterback Nicholas Miali threw two touchdown passes to Jack Zerkel.

    The Golden Hawks had lost their previous two games, including a one-point loss to Chino and last week’s 35-7 loss to Villa Park. Their defense was giving up 32 points a game. And El Dorado’s first possession Thursday was a disaster.

    Still, the Golden Hawks were the more physical and tenacious team for 90 percent of the game.

    “We’re just resilient, coming back with all these starters being injured,” Bento said, “and keeping a good mentality is important going into league.”

    El Dorado (3-4) plays its first North Hills League game of the season Friday, Oct. 13, against Canyon at Valencia High. Foothill (4-3) plays its Crestview League opener Thursday, Oct. 12. The Knights play Villa Park, undefeated going into this week, at El Modena High.

    Foothill is No. 19 in the Orange County Top 25. El Dorado was in the lower portion of the Top 25 early in the season but dropped out of it a few weeks ago.

    La Monda was impressed by the fight he saw in the Golden Hawks players.

    “We’ve had a long grind this season,” he said. “Dealing with some injuries, some adversity. We kept things fairly basic on both sides of the football, knowing we needed to establish the run and stop (Foothill) from running the ball and I thought we did that.”

    Thursday’s game started poorly for Bento and El Dorado.

    Bento’s third pass of the game on El Dorado’s game-opening possession went right into the hands and chest of Foothill defensive end Zach Schutt at the line of scrimmage. Schutt returned it 26 yards for a touchdown.

    El Dorado then got it going.

    El Dorado QB Nate Bento passed for 166 yards and rushed for 140 yards and a touchdown on a 41-19 win over Foothill …

    — Steve Fryer (@SteveFryer) October 6, 2023

    The Golden Hawks responded impressively, driving 67 yards on 8 plays with Murray scoring on his 4-yard run to it 7-7.

    After El Dorado’s defense stopped Foothill from getting a first down on the Knights’ following possession, the Golden Hawks took the lead on Cooper Larson’s 9-yard run for a 14-7 lead.

    Foothill’s best drive of the first half started at the Knights’ 20-yard line and advanced to the El Dorado 8-yard line with a first down there. An incompletion and Foothill runs of 4 and 3 yards put the ball at the El Dorado 1. Foothill running back Aaron Mitchell, who had carried the ball on seven of the drive’s 12 plays to that point, was stopped short of the line of scrimmage with Brady Lacher making the first hit and Landen Sylvester finishing the tackle for no gain.

    On first and 10 at El Dorado’s 1-yard line Bento took off on a 19-yard run to get the Golden Hawks out of danger of a potential safety. They punted on that possession but on their next one they got Murray’s 13-yard touchdown run with 31 seconds left in the second quarter for a 21-7 halftime lead.

    Foothill got the ball to start the second half and put together a spirited and production drive that ended with a 20-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Nicholas Miali to Jack Zerkel to make it 21-13.

    The Golden Hawks again responded with a touchdown. A 10-play, 90-yard drive ended with Murray’s 1-yard score. His 40-yard sprint through a massive hole in the middle pushed the lead to 34-13.

    Foothill got an 8-yard touchdown pass from Miali to Zerkel. The pass for two points was incomplete, leaving the score 34-19. Bento concluded the scoring with a 1-yard touchdown run with 4:53 left in the game.

    El Dorado’s offensive line of Walker Andersen, Mitchell Jones, Bryson McComb, Meyson McComb and Ryan Scrivner and tight end Nathan Meek provided Bento protection and gave Murray, and Bento, wide running lanes.

    “The O-line (offensive line) had a great performance,” Murray said. “They really made it easy for me and a couple of other running backs.”

    J.P. Murray rushed for 140 yards and 4 TDs for El Dorado in a 41-19 win over Foothill…

    — Steve Fryer (@SteveFryer) October 6, 2023

    La Monda also is the El Dorado offensive line coach.

    “I’m very proud of those guys,” he said. “I challenged them all week and I challenged them in practice and I challenged them today, and they went out and executed very well. They played the way we expect them to.”

    Murray, who has 11 rushing touchdowns this season, said Thursday’s game said much about El Dorado’s mettle.

    “It just shows we’re a hard-nosed team,” he said. “Everybody prepares, all the backups and everybody. Everybody’s ready for their time to show up and play some good football.”

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    ​ Orange County Register