IMPERIAL – The Imperial Tigers met the Olympian Eagles Friday at home in a match of supposedly even teams. By the end of the night, a scoreline of 58-17, Imperial, didn’t do justice to the Tiger’s dominance of the game.
The week’s question heading into Friday night’s showdown was: Could the quarterback/running back tandem of Chris Carter and Royce Freeman keep up their level of play against a team like Olympian, the toughest team the Tigers have faced?
By the end of the night the question was an emphatic Y-E-S.
Starting the game, the Tigers received and systematically drove down the football field 58 yards on 7 plays. Field general Chris Carter finished the drive with an astute read of the defense and scrambled 27 yards for the first score of the night, putting imperial up 7-0 three minutes into the game.
On the ensuing kickoff Olympian’s own Ed Galloway broke tackles, and possibly some ankles, on an 83 yard kickoff return. This gave the Eagles great starting field position from the Tiger 13, but could not muster offensive creativity as the Tiger defense forced the Eagles to settle for an Angel Garcia 25 yard field goal.
Imperial’s second drive took longer, the same result with one difference, as senior Austin Smyth now joined in pounding the ball down the Eagle defense. Smyth, Carter, and Freeman took turns rushing the ball. 17 plays and 80 yards later Imperial was up 13-3 with Freeman contributing his first touchdown run of the night, a 20 yard scamper with mere seconds left in the first quarter.
Receiving the ball to end the first quarter, Olympians first play had everyone in the stadium standing as Manny Rodriguez electrified the crowd and energized the Eagles with an 81 yard touchdown run to bring the score to 13-10.
Not to be outdone, especially at home, Royce Freeman broke a “big one” on the first play. The 78 yard touchdown run was not just Freeman’s second touchdown but also the score that brought momentum back to the Tigers side once and for all.
The Eagles had hit the Tigers with their best shot, Tigers took it, smiled, and hit back with something harder. From there it was all Tigers, all night long.
The Tiger defense and special teams forced punts, turnovers on downs, and fumbles while Carter and Freeman owned the night offensively.
Before the half was over Freeman claimed a 2-yard touchdown rush and an amazing 35-yard halfback option touchdown pass to Dajon Staton to lead the Tigers to 37-10 heading into the break.
Imperial received the ball again at the second half. Taking advantage of the extra possession, Freeman broke loose on the first play of the drive, this time for 77 yards and a touchdown, his fourth of the night.
Down 44-10 the Eagles needed a touchdown on its next drive, but fell twenty yards short as they turned it over on downs in the Tiger Red Zone.
The Tigers showed they are not just a “home-run” hitting team offensively as they ground out another long drive, going 80 yards on twelve plays capped off by Freeman’s fifth and final touchdown of the night.
On the Eagles next possession, Quarterback Gary Cannon hit Manny Rodriguez for a 74 yard touchdown pass as the Tiger defense was unable to bring down the shifty running back on his big play.
Still, up 51-17 Imperial’s own Dajon Staton had one more accomplishment to earn before the night ended. After an eight yard pass reception from Carter to Staton, Staton had officially become the Imperial Tiger’s all time leader in career receptions with 71.
On the very first play of the last quarter, the Tigers put the game away as Carter kept the football and rushed for 69 yards for his second and last touchdown of the night, ending the scoring for both teams and bringing the game to a 58-17 final score.
Carter finished the night with 136 yards on 12 carries and 2 touchdowns, while Freeman added his now weekly 200+ yard rushing total of 284 yards on 21 carries, and five touchdowns. This is also the 18th time in his career he has rushed for over 200 yards. Freeman threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Dajon Staton, who became Imperial’s all-time leader in pass receptions.
All in all it was a big night for the Tiger’s defense, too, as they showed great plays equal to its offense.
“I’ve been telling this team that once the defense catches up to the offense, we play on both sides of the ball, and we get the special teams going, that the sky’s the limit for them. We did all that tonight,” said Imperial Head Coach Kerry Legarra, happy with his team’s overall play tonight.
In a game that was supposed to be a tough test for Imperial, it seems that they did their homework, studied, and then aced it. Imperial now moves to 5-0 on the season and will have a bye next week before meeting Southwest on October 11 at home to kickoff Imperial Valley League play.[nggallery id=62]