June 15, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Junior running back Cooper Starnes scores six TDs to help La Quinta power past Saddleback

La Quinta players (including No. 8 Cooper Starnes), coaches and cheer squad members celebrate Thursday’s victory at Bolsa Grande. (Photos: Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone).

La Quinta High School’s football, led by a six-touchdown effort of junior running back Cooper Starnes, took control on the opening drive Thursday night against Saddleback and dominated after that.

La Quinta improved its record to 2-1 with a 59-6 victory at Bolsa Grande and Starnes tied for the school record with six TDs in a game set by Dominic Nguyen, according to Coach James Stewart.

Starnes had a 45-yard TD run on the Aztecs first drive. He followed with TD runs of 2, 1, 9, 66 and 14 yards and was the game’s leading rusher with 175 yards on 12 carries.

“I was just locked in, I just really wanted to beat this team, last season we had two wins the whole season, so getting this one we already have the same amount of wins we had all of last season in our first three games, so I’m really excited for the rest of the season, week 10 and playoffs and maybe winning the league for the first time in a long time,” he said.

The 66-yard run TD run in the third quarter made it 45-6 and the rest of the game was played with a running clock.

“All the blocks and with the O-line it was wide open and my receivers made perfect blocks, there was nobody that came close to me, that was 100 percent the team. I just did my little part, those blocks were insane on that play,” Starnes said.

To see additional photos, click on the first picture:

Starnes had a lot of yards, but just one touchdown all of last season for La Quinta.

“He had an amazing game, he’s a great kid he’s come a long way with his maturity and his leadership,” said Stewart, the La Quinta coach.

Michael Palacios also kicked a 33-yard field goal in the first quarter and Alex Tran had a 64-yard TD run in the second quarter for the Aztecs. Johnny Nugyen had a late TD to finish the scoring for La Quinta.

Tran rushed for 56 yards and quarterback Jakson Clark rushed for 56 yards and also completed a 27-yard pass. La Quinta passed just once in the game.

“We’re just trying to get some momentum going into league, we played well tonight and got up on them kind of early,” added Stewart. “We got to keep working and stay focused, that’s the theme of the team this year, consistency, if we stay consistent, we got a chance to run the table and win league, but on the other hand, if we’re inconsistent, we could lose some games.

“We’re going to run our triple option, that’s our game, we’re going to ground it out.”

It was another tough outing for Coach Paige Nobles Saddleback team, which entered the season with numerous sophomores starting and only six players returning from last year’s 2-8 team. The Roadrunners fumbled twice and La Quinta also recovered an onside kick.

Saddleback (0-3) broke the shutout on the opening drive of the third quarter when quarterback Adam Casteneda connected with Amos Alos on a 14-yard TD pass. Casteneda wound up with four completions for 71 yards.

La Quinta’s defense held the Roadrunners to under 70 yards rushing.

—Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com