CALIPATRIA — It was anything but easy, yet the Calipatria High football team finally put things together for a comeback to earn the first win of not only the season, but the first win at the brand new Veteran’s Field here Friday.
It took 42 minutes and 35 seconds for the Hornets to take the lead but it was worth it as they beat Excelsior Charter High, 13-12, to get that all important win.
“It means a lot to me to all of us … I don’t even know how to explain it,” said Calipatria junior George Ruvalcalva on the big win. “It feels good, not just for us but for our fans … they’ve been here supporting us since my freshman year. I know it hasn’t been the best, but this year is going to be different.”
Different is right as there are a few new wrinkles to the Hornet football team this season. After a loss in the first game of the season, Calipatria was eager to straighten out those wrinkles against Excelsior.
Flash forward to the third quarter with the Hornets trailing 12-0, Calipatria utilized a big 58-yard run by Ruvalcalva that put the ball on the Eagles six-yard line. On the next play, Zeke Fernandez took a read option into the end zone making it a 12-7 game after a successful extra-point attempt.
The Hornet score rallied the Calipatria sideline and those in the brand new grandstands, urging for a victory.
“We were able to make a lot of corrections in the second half and we came out hard and scored,” Calipatria quarterback Isaac Chavez said. “It lit up the whole crowd and when you have your city on your side you have to play harder.”
In the fourth quarter, the Hornet defense stayed as stout as they had been in the first quarter that saw four turnovers on downs by the Eagles.
With 6:35 remaining in the game, the Hornets took the ball on their own 32-yard line to begin what hoped would be a game-winning drive.
With the crowd on their side, the Hornets marched down the field on a series of tough, between-the-tackles runs that led down to the Eagles three-yard line. Of his 121 yards on 20 carries, Ruvalcalva added his biggest run of the night as he scored on a three-yard run to give the Hornets a 13-12 lead with 5:25 remaining.
Ruvalcalva was hobbled by injuries throughout the night but it wasn’t going to stop him from helping his team.
“Injuries affected us today, but you have to put it in the back of your head and try not to think about it … get back up and make the next play,” he said. “Our fans motivated us to keep going, so I wasn’t going to stop.”
Calipatria held Excelsior to another turnover on downs, then ran out the clock to finish off the win.
It was a sloppy first half for the Hornets as they were plagued with mistakes and penalties including an illegal-motion penalty that negated a 57-yard touchdown run by Ruvalcalva in the first quarter.
“In our first game we shot ourselves in the foot and we started the same way tonight, but in the second half we fixed those mistakes. We weren’t holding, we stayed onsides, and we began executing plays,” Calipatria head coach Brennan Petree said. “Our defense kept us in the game and we didn’t give up … it was a great effort from all of our guys tonight and I’m proud of them all.”
Calipatria (1-1, 0-0 ML) will travel to play Sherman Indian High at 7 p.m. Saturday in Riverside.
“We have to watch film and see what we did wrong and correct those errors during practice,” Chavez said. “It’s going to be a tough game but we are going to work hard to keep winning.”