IMPERIAL – 2014 IVL play finally reared its head Friday in the Imperial Valley as the defending champions, Imperial Tigers, hosted the Central Spartans of El Centro, in what was expected to be a competitive matchup between IVL hopefuls. In the end, though, the Tiger poise and determination to remain champs showed throughout the night en route to a dominant 40-7 win over a disappointed Spartan team.
It was a long first quarter for the Spartans as the Tigers jumped to a 19-0 lead with all points coming within a two and half minute time frame. A touchdown pass from Tiger Quarterback Aaron Bonillas to Joey Keck started the scoring with 6:30 left in the first quarter. Leading 7-0, the Tigers recovered their onside kick attempt and marched forty-nine yards in four plays, culminating with a David Savage nine-yard touchdown rush with 5:17 to play in the quarter. Two scores in little over a minute, the Tiger defense carried its momentum by forcing a three and out on Central’s next possession as well as a fumble after a Tiger offensive turnover.
Again it was Savage capping off the drive with a touchdown run, this one from nineteen yards out with 3:59 left to play in the quarter.
After the offensive onslaught, lasting just over two and a half minutes, Central’s defense began showing signs of life, forcing and recovering a fumble at the goal line as well as forcing a three and out before the end of the first half. Offensively, they had a hard time staying on the field.
Central playmaker, Angel Ramirez, was forced out of his usual runningback position to quarterback, after starting quarterback Pete Martinez went down to injury. He led the Spartans to the Tiger six yard line before a fumble on a handoff was recovered by the Tigers, right before the end of the first half.
Central hoped to capitalize on its new look with Ramirez under center on their first possession of the second half, and after two big runs from Ramirez it looked as though they might get going. But again, the offense sputtered once it reached Tiger territory. The Central drive ended with a turnover on downs at the Tiger thirty-yard line.
From there, all it took was three plays for the Tigers to extend the lead, a seventeen-yard rush from Savage, a fourteen-yard keeper from Bonillas, and a thirty-nine yard rush from Joey Keck for the touchdown to put the Tigers up 26-0 halfway through the third quarter.
Savage would add a 72-yard rush for a touchdown in the fourth quarter that looked eerily similar to a couple of big rushes from a couple of talented Tiger runners from last year.
Central did get on the board late in the fourth. With a defensive touchdown, Spartan defender Leo Ramirez was to rip the ball loose from a Tiger runner and return it eighty yards to pay dirt, making the score 33-7 with three minutes to play.
On the ensuing kickoff Tiger returner, AJ Carmona, returned the kick to the one-yard line where Joey Keck punched it in for the score bringing the game to its final score of 40-7, a Tiger victory.
“I’m extremely proud of our players, they played extremely well,” said Tiger head coach Kerry Legarra on his team’s performance on the night.
“The pre-season schedule, the tough games we played, was to get us ready for this and it looks like were ready for it. I think our kids are stepping up to the plate, and we’re ready for IVL.”
For the Tigers, the leading rusher of the night was David Savage who rushed for 192 yards on 16 carries and three touchdowns. Joey Keck added six rushes for 53 yards and two touchdowns, as well as a twenty eight yard touchdown catch. Aaron Bonillas went 12-20 through the air for 211 yards and one touchdown.
Up next the Tigers will visit Southwest High School in El Centro next Friday night.