Imperial Tigers lose a close game to Cibola Raiders

IMPERIAL – It was a surprising night of opening high school football for Imperial Valley League teams and perhaps the most exciting of the opening match-ups turned out to be the Imperial Tigers hosting the Cibola Raiders at home in Shimamoto-Simpson stadium.

Although putting up a valiant effort, and without senior standout defender Mark Benedict, the Tigers fell 32-35 to the Raiders of Cibola, in a somewhat unexpected “classic.”

The night of “unexpected” events began early with an opening onside kick from the Tigers.  It was recovered by the receiving Raiders, but a trend was set for the night as both teams repeatedly traded onside kicks after each score.

After recovering the onside kick, the Raiders could not get going early and were forced to punt in three plays.

Taking over at their own 36, the Tigers drove the ball to the seven yard line before being forced into a field goal, which was converted by Tiger kicker Jose Robles.
Down 3-0 halfway through the first quarter, the Cibola Raiders finally woke up offensively and strung together a couple of big plays, including a 28 yard pass from Raider quarterback Baily Arvizu to wide receiver Mark Walton.

 A costly personal foul called on the Tigers after the play put the ball at the Tiger fifteen yard line, and just three plays later, senior running back Abraham Thompson was in the end zone for the first Raider score of the night.

The Tigers would take over from their own 47 yard line and after three plays found themselves just inches short of a first down.  On fourth down and short from the Raider 44, a well timed inside hand-off to junior running back Joey Keck sent the junior tailback off to the races and put Imperial up 10-7.
Not to be outdone, the Raiders had their own highlight reel touchdown coming as Baily Arvizy hit Michael Hall in stride on a 35 yard dart putting the Raiders up 14-10.
After the Tiger offense was forced to punt on their next possession, their defense was able to clamp down and force a mistake as Zeke Hernandez intercepted a tipped ball and returned it deep into Raider territory.
From there, all it took was one play from Carlos Villanueva to punch it into the end zone, and along with a successful two point conversion, the Tigers were up 18-14.
At this point, the Tigers were hitting their stride as they finally recovered an onside kick, their fourth try of the night.   But after losses of yardage on a sack and a broken play they were forced to punt the ball back to the Raiders.
The Raiders then embarked on a fifteen play drive eating up almost eight minutes of clock, but the drive would end up in a turnover in downs deep in Tiger territory with just over a minute to play in the half.
Not wanting to waste an opportunity for a big play, Carlos Villanueva broke loose for a 71 yard touchdown run just before half, putting the Tigers up 25-14 at halftime.
The third quarter would not go as smooth, though as the Tigers received the ball, they were forced to punt after six plays, and would not see the ball again for almost nine minutes of play.
The Raiders of Cibola used that time wisely, going on two long touchdown drives strung together by an onside kick recovery and ended the third quarter up 28-25 lead.
The Tigers took the lead back at the beginning of the fourth quarter on a four yard run from Isaac Ramos, giving the Tigers a 32-28 lead early in the fourth.
After each team exchanged punts on their next offensive series, the Raiders took over near the fifty yard-line with just over four minutes to play.  After a short gain on first down, Bailey Arvizu found Michael Decourse-Hall for a 45 yard touchdown catch and run to put the Raiders up 35-32 with 3:46 to play.
The Tigers mounted a game- winning drive, but a close call on third down on a possible Aaron Bonillas- Carlos Villanueva catch was ruled incomplete.
On fourth down Aaron Bonillas was able to extend the play after an initial defensive rush, but was forced into a tough throw which fell incomplete.
And with that the Raiders ran the clock out and headed home with a close 35-32 victory.
“As far as I’m concerned this one is over, now we watch film and then we start preparing for Yuma,” said Tiger Head Coach Kerry Legarra looking towards next weeks match-up.
On the night Imperial did finish strong rushing as Aaron Bonillas, Carlos Villanueva, and Joey Keck all combined to finish the night with over 230 yards rushing (unofficially) with Carlos Villanueva leading the way with 96 of those.
Aaron Bonillas also added 81 yards passing going 6 for 13 in the air.
The Imperial Tigers will next be in action next week as they host the Yuma Criminals next Friday.