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STIFF-ARMED

Magana, Davis pull away from hobbled Lancers

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STIFF-ARMED

Taariq Davis gets the hand of Davis quarterback Zach Magana during East Union’s opening night at Dino Cunial Field.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin


POSTED August 31, 2013 2:23 a.m.

Zach Magana has studied from the best in the country, quarterbacks with champion pedigrees and shelves full of trophies.

In June, the Grace Davis junior attended the Manning Passing Academy, absorbing pointers from the New York Giants’ Eli Manning, Alabama’s AJ McCarron and, yes, even Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.

On Friday night, beneath the deafening chants of the Red Sea, Magana proved he’s got a little Brett Favre in his blood, too.

Magana tossed three touchdowns passes, including a two-handed shovel pass to McKylby Kao late in the third quarter that broke East Union’s spirit in a 26-13 victory at Dino Cunial Stadium.

The touchdown was the first of three consecutive scores for the Spartans, now 1-0 for the first time in nearly a decade.

“I thought I had the rushing touchdown,” Magana said, “but someone grabbed my legs. I saw my wide receiver and he was calling my name.”

That someone was Lancer cornerback Eddie Daube, who came around the weak-side edge unblocked. Daube had a clean shot on Magana, but the 6-foot-1, 185-pound quarterback refused to go down.

Magana tried to scramble for positive yards – perhaps a touchdown – but opted for the backyard flip made famous by former NFL MVP Brett Favre.

With Daube wrapped around his waist, Magana flung the ball forward with both hands, connecting with Kao in the end zone to make it 12-7.

The East Union sideline argued that Magana’s knee had touched the ground, but to no avail.

“Our junior quarterback … way to step it up,” Grace Davis coach Chris Cloward said in the postgame huddle to a chorus of cheers.

Magana finished 15 of 26 for 295 yards and those three touchdown passes. He also rushed for an insurance score late in the fourth quarter, securing Grace Davis’ first season-opening win in seven years.

“It’s a blessing,” he said.

The game quickly spiraled away from the home team after that.

On the next series, East Union head coach Willie Herrera was forced to burn two timeouts in a 20-second span because of a breakdown in communication with quarterback Isaiah Gordon.

Following the second timeout, Gordon rolled out of the pocket and spied a receiver breaking through the secondary. The left-handed quarterback under-threw his target, though, allowing Grace Davis’ Johnnie Mantez the uncontested interception.

On East Union’s very next possession – the first of the fourth quarter – Victor Lopez had a 97-yard touchdown run negated by a clipping penalty. The ball was spotted near midfield, where East Union would have to punt three plays later.

“They kept making mistakes,” Magana said, “and we kept capitalizing on them.”

With the Spartans’ run game null and void, Cloward put the game on his junior quarterback’s shoulders.

Magana admitted to being nervous early on in his first varsity start, but found his stride in the second half.

Trailing 12-7, he led Grace Davis on a nine-play, 53-yard drive, accounting for 47 of those yards on the ground (19) and through the air (28).

Lopez pushed the Lancers into the lead with an 8-yard burst with 4:30 left in the quarter, following a lead block from Clay Cuneo in the end zone.

Lopez rushed for a game-high 135 yards on 16 carries in East Union’s new Wing offense, a multi-prong attack that relies on deception and instinct.

There was just one problem. The Wing’s other components weren’t nearly as effective.

Running back Jose Maltez left the game with a knee injury and had to be carried from the field by teammates after the game. Fullback Nick McGill reinjured the left ankle he broke last fall; he finished the game on a gurney in the north end zone, surrounded by family.

And Gordon was largely contained. He completed just one pass – a 12-yard strike to Cuneo in the third quarter – and a bulk of his 62 rushing yards came on the final series of the game.

“He played his heart out and that’s all I can ask for,” Herrera said.

“It’s like I tell them. When we win it’s because of the kids; the losses, those are on me. We’ll keep working. We’re close to our goal. Believe it or not, we’re close to our goal.”

Lucas Garcia capped the scoring with a 17-yard run on East Union’s final possession.

That score, however, was just a footnote in a night that belonged to Magana and the Spartans.

“Usually in high school you want your best athlete at quarterback,” Herrera said. “That’s what you want our of your quarterback.

“But I’m proud of our boys. We didn’t give up.”

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