Q: What do you get when you mix one part Brewing Rivalry, one part Bell Game intensity and one part Playoff Level excitement?
A: A Cat Fight.
That is exactly what the reigning IVL Football Champions Imperial Tigers and the Brawley Wildcats provided in one of the most anticipated games of the new millennium Friday night.
As a chorus of a much deserved “We Are The Champions” serenaded the defending Champion Tigers over the loudspeaker during warm-ups, the Wildcats had thoughts of redemption and dethroning.
The beautiful fall evening had every possible attribute of a Friday Night Lights showcase. As the final gun sounded, the Brawley Wildcats came out victorious (35-21) and one step closer to a non-shared IVL Championship Title that has eluded them since 2007.
Brawley Wildcats received the opening kickoff and began on their own 30 yard line. They had a short drive stall and were forced to punt after only one first down. A fair catch at the Imperial 16 yard line gave the Tigers their first title defense drive. The Tigers only gained three yards and punted right back to the Wildcats. The ball was downed at the Brawley 26 and marked the beginning of the ’Cats second opportunity.
Warmed up and gaining momentum, Brawley used Jared Mohammed six out of eight plays and chewed up large chunks of real estate to the Imperial 44 yard line. A gamble on a 4th and inches paid off huge dividends for the Wildcats. Keying on Mohammed put the Tigers in a trance, so when Tanner Rollins was handed the rock, he scurried into the end zone for the first score of the game. Remington Campbell, who would go perfect on extra points for the evening, made his first attempt. Brawley led 7-0 with 3:34.
The Tigers began their next drive on the 35 yard line. Royce Freeman carried twice but only gained yardage. A penalty negated a first down carry by Freeman, which forced the Tigers to punt after unsuccessful runs and a pass play. The punt took a bad bounce for the Tigers and Brawley began a third drive at their 40 with less than one minute left in the first quarter.
Runs by both Bryce Alexander and Mohammed earned enough yardage for another first down. The Wildcats ended the quarter with the ball on the Tigers 45 yard line. Play two of the second quarter displayed Isaac Comparan’s tight rope skills as he gained 39 yards to the Tiger three yard line. Josh Godinez finished the drive with a short run to go up by two scores, 14-0, after the PAT was converted.
Imperial seemed a bit stunned going down by two touchdowns, and looked to Royce Freeman to get them back into the game. With each touch of the football, Wildcat fans held their breaths and when he was tackled, there was an exhaled sigh of relief. Royce carried 26 times in the game and was contained throughout the contest. On this drive, the Tigers made it a one score difference on eight plays for seventy yards. With 7:02 the Tigers scored on a Royce run from one yard out. The point after was good and it was Brawley ahead 14-7.
Beginning on their 35 yard line after a kickoff out of bounds, the Brawley Wildcats once again took over on downs. This drive utilized Mohammed six times and Comparan twice to reach the red zone of the Tigers. The Tigers defense stiffened and the Wildcats were faced with a long 3rd and 12 at the Tiger’s 19 yard line. A pitch to Tanner Rollins seemed to be a sweep around the right side, but when Rollins stopped in his tracks and heaved a pass to a wide open Donavan Buck it was another TD for the Wildcats. The PAT was good; Brawley lead was 21-7 at the 2:38 mark of the second quarter.
Imperial had little time left before the half way point and they began their drive on their own 30 yard line. On their first play, a huge sack by Donavan Buck created a bigger hill to climb with a 2nd and 18. A run and an incomplete pass forced the Tigers to punt and end the half with a similar score from the year before. Last year’s halftime score was Brawley leading 21-10, this year it was 21-7.
Imperial Tigers came out for the second half knowing they were going to receive the kickoff. It was time for a comeback. No surprise that they utilized their best athlete, Royce Freeman, on most of their carries. The drive that began at their 34 yard line quickly moved into the Wildcats’ red zone and 1st and goal. The twelve play drive had Royce carry eight times. On 3rd and goal at the one, Royce stepped into the end zone and scored his second touchdown. The Tigers were only seven points down and momentum seemed to have taken a major shift. It was 21-14 with 6:28 left in the third quarter.
The next kickoff had even more evidence of a momentum swing when they bobbled the kickoff and the Wildcats began at their own 10 yard line. Two carries only netted four yards, but when Isaac Comparan was handed the ball on a 3rd and 6 from the Wildcat 14, he ran for a fifty-six yard carry and was finally stopped at the Imperial 28 yard line. Bryce Alexander had a big run of fourteen yards to the Tiger 12 yard line. Four plays later, Bryce Alexander ran it again and scored from three yards out. With 2:44 left in the third quarter it was 28-14, Wildcats ahead.
The next drive for the Tigers seemed to be the game changer. Beginning at their own 38 yard line, the Tigers again handed consistently to Royce Freeman. He carried the ball five of the next six plays. On the sixth play, after carrying half of the Wildcat’s defensive players on his back, it appeared that his momentum had been stopped. No whistles had blown and in the process Royce was stripped of the football by Isaac Comparan. The Wildcats gained possession at their 26 yard line to end the 3rd quarter.
Up fourteen points, the Wildcats started the drive of the season. It was a smorgasbord of players handling the ball. It is the main reason why Brawley has had so much success this year. Defenses have no idea which Wildcat will be given the ball. On a 3rd and short, Isaac Comparan was off to the races as he ran for 45 yards to the Imperial twenty yard line. A few more helpings of Mohammed, Comparan and Rollins brought a 3rd and 9 at the eleven. Comparan again was given the rock, and he raced into the end zone for the Wildcats final touchdown. It was a 35-14 Brawley lead with 6:26 to play in the game.
Imperial was not giving up that easily. They began their last drive of the game on their 20 yard line after a touch back on the kickoff. After an incomplete pass, Royce Freeman had a huge 30 yard gain to the Brawley 35 yard line, preceded by a 15 yard run. They moved the ball downfield quickly with six straight run plays by Freeman. After Stovall got it down to the one, Freeman scored the last of the night with 3:26 left in the game. PAT completed a perfect night of extra points and it was 35-21.
An onside kick attempt went long and passed the first two lines of up men. The ball was recovered by Wildcat Isaac Comparan at the 29 yard line. All that remained were a few plays achieving two first downs and the clock struck 0:00.
In the end, five different Wildcats scored touchdowns and that has proven to be the recipe for success for the 2012 Wildcats. The Wildcats are in full control of their own destiny for the IVL Title with games versus Palo Verde, Southwest and Central left. Their defense is the back bone of their success. Week in and week out, you hear the names of Donovan Buck, Hunter Wharton, Isaiah Quiroz, Abraham Lopez, Christian Gonzales, Tanner Rollins, Remington Campbell, Jordan Brewer, Josh Godinez, Lionel Gonzalez, Richard Ramirez, Bryce Alexander, Zack Krigbaum, and Jared Mohammed being called out on the PA system.
The Wildcats travel to Blythe next week to play the Yellow Jackets of Palo Verde who have a record of 3-4 overall and are 0-2 for IVL. It will be a double header as the JV squad will play on the same evening.