BRAWLEY – The Brawley Wildcat’s big win versus the 2013 Defending Champion Imperial Tigers had everyone, (coaches, players and fans), on cloud nine, but it is time to come down to earth and look at what is facing them in the next few weeks ahead. The next game in Blythe on Halloween makes for an eerie evening. The Palo Verde Yellowjackets are heavy underdogs predicted to lose 61-0. The last time the Wildcats were expected to win this big was versus the Eagles (55-0) on Brawley’s homecoming night. We all know what happened that evening and a scoreless first half gave way to the 28-0 win.
A good dose of Andrew Ortiz (20 carries for 238 yards) and Ross Rubio (19 carries for 108 yards) proved too much for the Tiger defense and the 35 unanswered points it allowed. Austyn Gutierrez, although stats weren’t as impressive, scored his first TD since the three TD game earlier this year. Brawley’s ball control will be a key factor come playoff time. Keep the ball out of the other team’s hands and keep opponent’s defense on the field. Passing was very effective, even though it was minimal on the stat’s sheet. It was enough to keep the defense in check and the Wildcats appeared more confident in their successful passing.
Coach Self’s defense was again the big story. The Wildcats came just seconds short of scoring its fifth shutout. The score came on the last play from scrimmage. Defense had impressive numbers week in and week out from Nathan Montalvo and Jacob Ordonez, both juniors. Last Friday followed the pattern of defensive dominance. They combined for a total of 21 tackles/assists and three were for loss of yardage. Super Sophomores Blake Zeleney and Fernando Munoz continued to give headaches to opposing coaches and players. Blake Zeleney had a crucial fumble recovery that allowed Brawley to increase a 14-point lead to 21 after a botched kickoff by the Tigers. Steven Baeza and Alex Campbell were effective pressuring the passing game which had been more effective for the Tigers earlier against previous opponents. The most impressive player defensively was Andrew Ortiz. He was on the top of the list on both sides of the ball this game. He was involved in numerous tackles, solo and assists, with four tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
One player who can have a big impact on a football game, for good or bad, is kicker Omar Celis, His impact has been positive since the first game. He, again, was perfect place kicking with another night of 5 for 5 on PAT’s. Adding to that in special teams is kicking off. As often as the Wildcats kicked off against the Tigers, Omar had two reach the one-yard line and two touchbacks that eliminated the threat of a return. This is a huge weapon to have, especially in the playoffs. Add to that, the high pooch kick that makes it difficult to be caught effectively, making for a long evening for opposing teams.
The Wildcats travel now to Blythe, and being on Halloween gives it an interesting twist. As I mentioned to some fans when the schedule was first announced, “Do you know what’s scarier than traveling to Blythe for a football game?” The answer: “Doing that on Halloween”. If you have ever made the trip, you know exactly what I mean by that and I hope this isn’t taken out of context.
The Wildcats must keep improving and not allow the 61-0 prediction to affect them in any way. They must also come out of this game unscathed, meaning no injuries and keeping their cool should the game have any extracurricular activity. Any ejections in this game will cause a player to miss the next game. For Wildcats, that would mean missing the “Bell Game”. The Palo Verde Yellowjackets have some talent on their team but have been plagued with injuries. Brawley faces Coach Dagnino who has the longest tenure of all current active IVL coaches. He knows the Wildcats well and could have some Tricks and Treats to keep Brawley on their heels. How effective Palo Verde will be against the Wildcats after Brawley’s big win last week will be answered on Halloween.
To the coaches and players, best of luck and have a great game. For those fans making the trip to Blythe, please drive safely and do not to pick up any ghosts or goblins on the way to or from the game.