Imperial Takes Big Step Towards Title In Win Over Brawley

Imperial High quarterback Aaron Bonillas rolls out against Brawley Union High during an Imperial Valley League game Friday in Brawley. Photo by: Lloyd Miller
Imperial High quarterback Aaron Bonillas rolls out against Brawley Union High during an Imperial Valley League game Friday in Brawley. Photo by: Lloyd Miller

The Brawley Union High School Wildcats and the Imperial High School Tigers “Clash” for the Imperial Valley League football title took a big leap in favor of the Tigers on Friday night on Warne Field in Brawley.

The Tigers overcame several turnovers and a 14-7 deficit at halftime, scored 15 unanswered points after the break, and are now sitting atop in first place for the IVL with a 22-14 victory over the Wildcats.

The Tiger defense held the Wildcats scoreless in three of the four quarters played, including a total shutdown in the second half.

Brawley had its opportunities by forcing three turnovers, but were only able to cash in on one for a touchdown. Three huge plays, an 80-yard pass and two touchdown runs of 45 and 54 yards extended the Tigers dominance on Warne field with their third straight win when playing the Wildcats in league play.

Both teams began their first possession at their 20-yard line. The Wildcats stalled at the Imperial 43-yard line, but the Tigers struck first on their third play from scrimmage on a short pass from Aaron Bonillas (5-12 for 155 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions) that was turned into an 80-yard touchdown completion by Raymond Beamon. The Tigers jumped ahead 7-0 with 7:46 left in the first quarter.

After exchanging possessions and both defenses preventing scoring for the remainder of the first quarter, the Wildcats first chance to put points on the board came via a field goal attempt of 50 yards by David Quintero. The kick fell short of the goal posts relinquishing the ball back to the Tigers.

Three plays later, Nathan Suits gave the offense great field possession after an interception at the Brawley 25-yard line and returning it to the Imperial 46.

This time the offense scored six plays later on an 18-yard run by Suits. (32 carries and 146 yards) With 4:42 left in the half, the score was tied at 7-7 after the extra point kick.

The Imperial offense took command for most of their next drive starting at the 31-yard line. Taking it down to the Brawley five-yard line, including another 32-yard, big pass play by Bonillas to David Savage, the Tigers were set to take the lead but Wildcat Kevin Kastner changed it all on one play. Kastner stepped in front of a Bonillas pass at the goal line and raced 100 yards for a Brawley score and lead. The Wildcats took that 14-7 lead into the intermission after Imperial failed on a 41-yard field goal attempt with :43 seconds in the second quarter.

Imperial received the second half kickoff and three plays into their drive Kastner recovered a fumble to give the Wildcats a chance to extend its lead. The Tiger defense stopped any of those thoughts and after only five plays Brawley was forced to punt.

An 80-yard drive began with just under 8 minutes left in the third for the Tigers. Less than two minutes of game time and six plays later the Tigers scored its second touchdown of the game on a 45-yard run by sophomore Brandon Hueso. The sophomore running back unofficially ended the game with 122 yards on 16 carries.

During the extra point attempt, the Wildcats were penalized which allowed the Tigers to attempt a two-point conversion from the one-yard line. On that play, Hueso took the handoff and just before plunging into the line threw a jump pass to Lambert Soto for a 15-14 lead with 5:52 left in the third quarter.

Both teams exchanged punts twice, taking the game into the middle of the fourth quarter. With the Wildcats down only one point, their best chance began at the 7:41 mark in the final stanza.

Starting at their 40-yard line, Brawley used seven plays but could only reach the Tiger 39-yard line and was faced with a 4th down and two. It was extended to needing seven yards from the 44-yard line after a false start penalty. A long pass fell incomplete and the Tiger’s defense once again held back a Wildcat score.

Two plays later, David Savage scored on what appeared to be a game clinching 54-yard run extending the lead to eight points, but the Wildcats were still within one score of tying the game. With 1:57 showing on the clock, the Tigers led 22-14.

“They’re a heck of a team,” said Imperial senior defensive back Carlos Villanueva. “They came out and tried pounding it at us and our defense stood up. Like I said, they are a heck of a team. It’s a one score game and we were able to step it up.”

The ensuing kickoff brought life to both the home crowd and home team as Suits returned the kick from his one-yard line to the Tiger 40 for a 59-yard return. During the seven-play drive, a determined Tiger defense shut down any hopes with a big quarterback sack, then forcing errant passes that fell incomplete for the Wildcats. One last pass from A.J. Grijalva to Mickle was close but just out of reach of the receiver and the Tigers celebrated a much deserved and earned victory.

”It was a great job on both parts, we just came out on top tonight.  I thought our kids played extremely hard, I have never been more proud,” said Imperial head coach Kerry Legarra.

Making two big defensive stops late in the game for the Tigers was defensive back Ted Vogel, including deflecting a pass on 4th-and-7 deep in Tiger territory ending the drive for the Wildcats with two minutes to play in the game.

“We played that hard schedule in the beginning, we were 0-5, we worked our butts off every week at practice and it all paid off,” said Vogel.

The Tigers are now 3-0 in IVL play and will host the Calexico High Bulldogs next week followed by their IVL finale against the Palo Verde Yellow Jackets, also at home in Imperial.

The Wildcats fall to 2-1 in league play with just two games remaining. They will host the Yellow Jackets of Palo Verde High School from Blythe next week for the last home game of the season.

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