EL CENTRO — The undefeated Southwest High School Eagles played host to the defending 2014 Imperial Valley League Champion, Brawley Union High Wildcats, to open up league play here Friday night.
The Eagles matched the Wildcats’ scoring both times in the first half, and ironically, had the same results as last year at half – tied at intermission.
Last year, heavily favored Brawley was held to a 0-0 score at halftime of their homecoming. This year, on Southwest’s Homecoming evening the score was knotted at 14-14, the crowning of royalty was announced and the Wildcats then scored three unanswered touchdowns for the grand finale of a 35-14 victory.
The Wildcat defense held another team to under 100 yards rushing, by only allowing 96 yards (unofficially) on the ground. That coupled with the 67 passing yards they only allowed, provided enough for Brawley’s offense to compile 369 yards, all on 49 rushes, for the evening. Brawley’s offensive line was on point all night as they only surrendered two negative yardage plays.
With a single first down on their initial drive, the Eagles punted to the Wildcats. It was only their second punt of the year but they would punt five more times during the game.
Brawley began their first drive at their own 27-yard line and used almost four and a half minutes to score in nine plays. On a fourth down-and-four, at the Eagle 30-yard line, Nathan Suits (23 carries for 194 yards) ran his first of three touchdowns. It was 7-0 at the 4:01 mark of the first quarter.
The Eagles fared better on their next drive with better field position and more prosperous results. Beginning at their 42-yard line, it took Southwest just over four minutes to score on 11 plays. Eagle quarterback Cameron Jungers (11 carries for 55 yards) and leading rusher for Southwest scored his first of two touchdowns on the first play of the second quarter on a three-yard run.
Jungers completed five passes of 11 attempts, and was intercepted once in the game. The score was tied at 7-7.
It only took the Wildcats one minute and one second on three plays to score on a 60-yard drive. Suits had 21 of those yards but Austyn Gutierrez (7 carries and 91 yards) had the big run on this touchdown from 39-yards out. It was the first of his two touchdowns of the night. With 10:52 left until half, it was 14-7 in favor of Brawley.
Both teams tightened up on defense by forcing each other to punt. The Eagles possessed the ball at the 7:03 mark of the second quarter to begin their game-tying drive of six plays.
The Eagles were aided by a poor punt of five yards by the Wildcats giving Southwest possession at the Wildcat 25-yard line. It took three plays for the Eagles to reach the Brawley one-yard line and another three plays to punch in the tying score when Jungers snuck it in behind the center. With 5:23 the score was again deadlocked at 14-14 after the kick for the extra point.
Brawley was unsuccessful on its final drive of the half although they were able to reach the Eagle 16-yard line. A costly turnover deprived the Wildcats from taking the lead, a lead that could have been extended since Brawley would receive the kickoff in the second half.
The Wildcats didn’t have a good start on its first drive of the second half. Brawley was penalized four times for 35 yards, but more damaging was an injury to starting quarterback A.J. Grijalva, prevented his return to the game.
The Eagles received the ball after a Wildcat punt into the end zone for a touchback with 8:12 remaining in the third quarter.
Southwest only succeeded at making three first downs the rest of the evening on four separate drives.
After a poor punt, and a good return by George Mickle, he would lead the Wildcats as the back up to Grijalva. In his first complete drive, Brawley charged with eight plays and 34-yards for the 21-14 lead.
With 4:03 left in the third quarter Gutierrez scored from nine yards. The next drive took seven plays and 65 yards to a 28-14 lead, of which Suits scored from three yards.
Nathan Montalvo picked a perfect time to grab his first interception of the year as it prevented the Eagles to mount any type of comeback. It also gave the Wildcats great field possession at the Southwest 44-yard line.
Mickle handed the ball to Suits four more times for the last score from 10-yards. With 3:18 left in the game the score turned 35-14 and remained, until the final seconds ticked off the clock.
Brawley (3-3, 1-0 IVL) will host Calexico at 7 p.m. Friday in their homecoming game while Southwest (5-1, 0-1 IVL) will play at Imperial at 7 p.m. Friday in The Johnny Romero Fireman’s Helmet Game. Be sure to look for “After Further Review” on www.thedesertreview.com.[envira-gallery id=”65906″]