This IVL season has unfolded somewhat how I referenced in my â€˜Friday Night Lights 2014â€™ preseason article in August. I wrote back then:
Â “November 7th vs. Central
This game has the potential to be the IVL Title game as we have seen in years past. Coach Michael Hobbs is now in his fourth season and has established a football program that reached the semi-finals in their division last year. Itâ€™s the Annual â€œVictory Bellâ€ game so it doesnâ€™t need any hype.”
It all comes down to â€œOneâ€ game. Throw out the records, the games of common opponents, and definitely throw out the predicted score of the favored Wildcats of 34-6. We have seen bigger predictions, and they didn’t pan out the way they should have, and this is no different.
Central comes into the game with a 5-4 record overall and 3-1 during IVL. Their only loss in IVL is to the Imperial Tigers by a score of 40-7. Central went on to three straight wins, including two shutouts. Should they pull out an upset during the â€œBell Gameâ€ it would create a three-way tie between Brawley, Imperial and Central. Being that the â€œBellâ€ would also make its trip back to â€œSpartaâ€, that would make it so much sweeter for Spartans who suffered a four â€œBell Gameâ€ losing streak. Their last â€œBell Gameâ€ victory was in 2009 at Central, 23-18.
Riding on an emotional big win versus the Southwest Eagles last Thursday evening, the Spartans are probably grateful for the extra day to rest, then prepare for the biggest game of the seniorsâ€™ football careers thus far. These seniors have had the pleasure of beating Brawley on Warne Field. As freshman, they handed the Wildcats a 24-14 loss. It would be a fitting end if they could come out victorious on the same field on their fourth and final attempt.
Spartans are big on both sides of the line with many key position players remaining the same from that Frosh squad of 2011. #2 Angel Ramirez is one of the key players and probably the most skilled. He has played many positions on both sides of the football. He is their main RB with (642 yards) just under half of the teamâ€™s 1369 rushing yards.
QB for Central is sophomore #12, Pete Sanchez, with 816 yards of the over 1100 yards thrown for the season. They are evenly balanced in the offensive side but a big threat is receiver #14 Joseph Balbuena, the senior who is the QBâ€™s favorite target. He has 750 yards in receiving and seems to make catches in some of the most critical points in Spartan games. He made the eventual game winning 91-yard reception against the Holtville Vikings as well as other big catches during the season.
Brawley Wildcats come into the game with their best offensive performance of the season last week. Both Austyn Gutierrez (11 carries-258 yards) and Andrew Ortiz (22 carries â€“ 204 yards) went over 200 yards in the same game. Being this is â€œRunning Back Highâ€, it most likely has occurred before, but no one can pinpoint as to when.
Defensively, they had another solid performance by the entire unit. They kept Palo Verde to only 96 total yards of offense for the entire game. Half of those yards came late in the third quarter on a 47-yard drive.
The Wildcats once again had an interception, something they have done in all but one game this season. They are led by Nathan Suits with 5 picks, followed by AJ Grijalva with two of his own. Nico Aguirre, Jacob Ordonez and Nicolas Amezcua each have a pick six (Interception returned for a TD). Also in the Interception Club are Nathan Montalvo and Kevin Kastner. If the Spartans intend to pass they will have to make those passes safe and effective.
The Bell Game has had memorable moments in years past. Who could ever forget the â€œGoodâ€ ones like the infamous, â€œHook and Ladder,â€ that Boris Carter took to victory in the early 80â€™s, or finally breaking the long streak that the Spartans held with 8 wins in 1992. (Granted one of those losses was overturned due to forfeit against Central)
My first memory of the â€œBell Gameâ€ is from 1973, when the Wildcats broke the four- games losing streak. It was in Central by a score of 13-6. While I attended games before then, this is the game that stands out as the one that infected me with â€œBell Game Feverâ€ which so many have had the pleasure of catching.
Losses can be just as memorable, yet painful. The infamous Central field goal in 1984 to break the Wildcat streak of seven â€œBell Gameâ€ wins. Or even more painful was the following year, when the heavily favored Central Spartans were almost upset on their own turf, only to recover a fumble on the one-yard line, which prevented the potential game winning score at the end of the game. Central continued to win for five more years.
Memories will be created this Friday night, both good and bad, and another â€œBell Gameâ€ will live up to the rivalry it has had for 72 years. Itâ€™s one of the longest standing rivalries in High School football, which actually hails back to the1920â€™s. The Victory Bell came into the picture in 1944.
Wishing the best of luck to all the coaches and players, may this game continue the tradition as the best rivalry in high school football.