IMPERIAL – On a rare night of good September weather, the Valley Center Jaguars journeyed for the second time in four weeks to the Imperial Valley, taking on the Tigers of Imperial. It was another close matchup for the Tigers, with this one resembling more of a defensive struggle, but in the end the Jaguars took the 14-21 victory, the game winning score coming late in the fourth quarter.
While both teams offered their share of firepower offensively, it turned into a defensive showcase early as both teams exchanged three and outs on their first possessions. The pattern continued for the Tigers on their second possession until Tiger punt coverage ace, AJ Carmona, pounced on a muffed punt deep in Jaguar territory, giving the Tigers a new set of downs and a first and goal from the seven yard line. Three plays later Tiger Quarterback, Aaron Bonillas, was in the endzone with a two yard quarterback keeper putting Tigers up 7-0 halfway through the first quarter.
The Jaguar offense again could not get anything going but a defensive spark proved to be just what they needed when Jaguar linebacker Austin Fluegge came up with an interception in Tiger territory, leaving only twenty nine yards to the end zone for the Jaguar offense.
After six plays, Jaguar Quarterback Daniel DeLeon found Luke Korym in the end zone for a four-yard touchdown on fourth down, tying the score at 7-7.
Both sides capitalized on the others’ mistakes for scores in the first quarter, but another defensive chess match broke out as neither side offensively came up with an answer to take the lead. Eventually an answer came for the Jaguars halfway through the second quarter, DeLeon lofted a perfect pass deep to Jacob Newman for a fifty-eight yard touchdown score putting the Jaguars up 14-7.
The Tigers looking, and seemingly finding an answer right before the half, mounted a ninety-four yard drive before attempting a field goal that was blocked just as the half expired.
The second half continued the formula of defensive stands from both teams, followed by sudden waves of offense as both teams had trouble moving the ball early in the third but found their rhythms in the fourth.
The Tigers tied the game after a nine play, forty-yard drive capped by a ten yard pass from Aaron Bonillas to Zeke Hernandez on third and goal. The score tied the game at 14-14 with eleven minutes to play in the fourth.
Each team’s defense again showed their claws and kept the offenses in check until late in the fourth as big plays by Daniel DeLeon on a Valley Center drive ended up making the difference in the game. DeLeon hit Jared Gilster for a forty-two yard completion on third and long, and then Josh Lucas for thirty-four yards and a touchdown score, lifting the Jaguars to a 21-14 lead with four minutes left to play.
After pinning the Tigers deep on the ensuing kickoff, the Jaguar defense held the Tigers to a quick three and out. From there, two first down runs from Dustin Dendy and the Jaguars ran the clock out leaving Shimamoto-Simpson stadium with a tough, hard fought 21-14 victory.
On the night for the Tigers, Aaron Bonillas completed fifteen of twenty-eight passes for 179 yard and a touchdown, and also rushed for twenty yards and a touchdown. Carlos Villanueva finished Imperial’s leading rusher going for forty-six yards on eleven carries.
For the Jaguars, Quarterback Daniel DeLeon led the way passing for 308 yards and three touchdowns while completing fifteen of his twenty eight pass attempts. Senior running back Dustin Dendy added fifty-three yards on five carries.
“I really thought I had the answers this evening, I really truly did, but apparently I didn’t, so now I’m going to go back and search some more and see what I can do to make myself better as a coach and make our team better as team, and take those steps forward rather than backward,” said Tiger head coach Kerry Legarra post game.