ORANGE – The football playoffs have been in the back of El Modena’s mind all season.
The Vanguards have lost in three straight semifinals, but to get to a fourth and correct their record, they had to first get past their playoff opener on Thursday night.
Andrew Carvajal carried the ball 24 times for 170 yards and two touchdowns while A.J. Esperanza threw for 243 yards and three touchdowns as El Modena defeated El Segundo comfortably 38-22 in a CIF-SS Division 7 first-round game at El Modena High.
“I think we’re just one step at a time,” El Modena coach Matt Mitchell said. “We’re staying focused on ourselves getting better each week. One day at a time and not looking too far ahead.”
Second-seeded El Modena (9-2) moves on to the second round to play the winner of the Palmdale-Diamond Ranch game on Friday, Nov. 10.
The Vanguards’ game plan was built around the run game as they fed Carvajal all night and even switched to their tight heavy package after crossing midfield.
“Athletically, I thought the match-ups in the secondary,” Mitchell said, “we might have a little trouble getting open tonight. So during the week, we kind of thought we’d run the ball and grind it like we did.”
El Modena struck on the game’s opening drive.
Esperanza connected with Carvajal down the Vanguards’ sideline on a 39-yard pass. Carvajal took it from there with three carries on the ground including a 10-yard run for a touchdown and 7-0 lead.
“I like it,” Carvajal, with his jersey tattered around the shoulders, said of his workload. “Behind my line, they’re a bunch of big guys. They work, we work, it’s good.”
El Segundo came back with a 14-play drive but stalled inside the El Modena 10-yard line for a field goal.
On El Modena’s next drive, Esperanza converted on a fourth-down sneak to open the second quarter. El Modena didn’t let it go to waste as Carvajal ran in his second score, a 5-yard touchdown, for the 11-point lead.
El Segundo kept in the…