ANAHEIM — Someone in the Glover Stadium press box asked at halftime Friday night what Robert Murtha was up to this year.
The Loara High football team remembered Murtha, who had a solid game as Estancia shut out the Saxons in the season opener last year. But Murtha, Newport-Mesa's all-time leading rusher, is now at Orange Coast College.
The Eagles are very young this year, with just one returning starter. In terms of the shutout, Loara returned the favor in Estancia's season opener.
The Saxons blitzed the overmatched Eagles, 35-0.
Coach Mike Bargas suffered just the third shutout loss in his seven-year tenure at Estancia, the first since a 31-0 nonleague loss to Beckman in 2010. After Friday's game, Bargas said he was obviously disappointed with how the Eagles played, young or not.
"Loara played well," Bargas said. "Just everything that could have gone wrong, we did wrong. We didn't get a lot of help from the officials, either, but we dropped passes, we had a bad punt, we threw interceptions. Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong."
Loara rode shifty junior running back Josh Moran, who had 121 yards rushing and two touchdowns in just over a half of action. Moran's second touchdown of the night capped the scoring, a seven-yard run with 10:18 left in the third quarter. Senior quarterback David Gistlinck threw for two touchdowns and also ran one in for the Saxons (2-0).
Bad omens were already there for Estancia in the first quarter, even after Loara missed a 26-yard field goal on its opening drive. Estancia went three-and-out, but the punt was low, low enough to run into the offensive line. Loara recovered at the Eagles' 10-yard line and scored three plays later on Gistlinck's one-yard keeper.
"It's hard to win games when we've got our defense backed up," Bargas said. "I thought in the second half, the defense made some good adjustments. We started tackling, but we made a lot of foolish mistakes [throughout the game]."
Estancia went for it on fourth-and-six from its own 36 on its second drive. Connor Brown rolled out and had the pass to an open receiver, but it went off his hands and was dropped. Eight plays later, Loara converted a fourth-and-goal play from the two, with Gistlinck completing a play-action pass to his open fullback, Andres Ramirez.
The Eagles got to the Loara 12-yard line on their next series, but a fourth-and-nine run up the middle was stuffed. Things would not get easier for Estancia, which had a streak of winning three straight season openers snapped. The Eagles also had three turnovers via interception, all of them coming in the second half.
Junior running back Christian Laurent (23 carries for 130 yards) tried to get the Eagles on the board near the end. He had to hurry, as the fourth quarter was played with a running clock.
The transfer from Edison ripped off some nice chunks of yardage on the drive in the closing minutes, but Laurent's final 10-yard run was stopped at the Loara two-yard line. The Eagles couldn't get off another play before the game ended.
"I think a little of the youth showed tonight, but I also think we played a little tentative, too, on both sides of the ball," Bargas said. "We just hiccup someplace. We throw an interception, or we get a flag. We did a lot of it to ourselves … With this group that we have this year, I think we can put out a better product. I didn't think the product was really good today, and I take responsibility for that.
"We've got to look back at the film and see what we can fix. Last week at our scrimmage, I thought we were real confident in what we did, and today we just [weren't]."
Estancia also has to deal with a short week prior to its next game, at home on Thursday against Ocean View.
Loara 35, Estancia 0
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Estancia 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 — 0