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    Rancho Alamitos football knocks off La Quinta, forces three-way tie for first
    • October 21, 2023

    GARDEN GROVE — Once again, things in the Garden Grove League are coming down to the wire.

    Rancho Alamitos’ football team beat La Quinta 21-14 on Friday night at Bolsa Grande High, thanks to a go-ahead, fourth-quarter touchdown by Cruz Gonzalez and a defense that collected five turnovers.

    Gonzalez, a junior, took over as the primary ball carrier on the pivotal drive after senior running back Jesus Diego started cramping up. Gonzalez scored on a 4-yard run with 2:24 remaining.

    “He’s done a great job for us all year and we didn’t actually even get him the ball in the first half and then, all of a sudden, he had fresh legs and it made a big difference right there,” Rancho Alamitos coach Mike Enright said of Gonzalez.

    “We play hard, that’s one thing we do,” Enright added. “We may get beat but we’re gonna play hard.”

    The victory was crucial for Rancho Alamitos (6-3, 3-1), which is now tied for first place with La Quinta (6-3, 3-1) and Los Amigos (5-4, 3-1) with one week left in the regular season.

    “That’s one thing about our league, though, especially this year,” Enright said. “We’re very balanced and every game is coming down to the last minute.”

    The Aztecs began the game with a nice drive deep into Vaqueros territory but their scoring chance ended when sophomore quarterback Jakson Clark was picked off by Carlos Herrera at the 25.

    La Quinta got on the scoreboard on their next possession when Cooper Starnes took an inside handoff 97 yards to the end zone for a 6-0 lead after a missed PAT.

    Starnes finished with 184 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown.

    Diego’s 3-yard run gave Rancho Alamitos a 7-6 lead in the second quarter and La Quinta fumbled on its next possession but Vaqueros quarterback Henry Garcia was intercepted by Kyle Hoang.

    Clark would go on to find Hoang for a 56-yard TD pass and Starnes’ 2-point conversion made it 14-7 Aztecs with 1:31 remaining in the half.

    The Vaqueros needed three plays to tie the game when Garcia hit freshman Osvaldo Ramos (6 receptions, 111 yards) for a 49-yard score with 40 seconds left.

    “You can’t beat teams with five turnovers and six or seven penalties,” La Quinta coach James Stewart said. “Give Rancho credit, they ran the ball, they hit that big pass play to tie the game up in the first half, and then they grinded us down and we couldn’t respond.”

    The Vaqueros needed a victory to have a chance at claiming a share of their sixth consecutive league title.

    Los Amigos needs a win over Santiago next week to secure a share of back-to-back league titles, and Rancho Alamitos claim another league championship if it beats Loara.

    If the Aztecs beat Bolsa Grande next week, they can become league champions for the first time since 1990.

    “The big picture is, we gave ourselves two chances to win a league championship and we got one more,” Stewart said. “We got one more game, we gotta close out and get in the playoffs.”

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    ​ Orange County Register