EL CENTRO — The Imperial Tigers were on the road this past week, taking on the 6-1 Southwest Eagles in a highly anticipated IVL matchup that lived up to its pregame hype. As both teams battled back and forth throughout the night, the difference would come down to a late fourth quarter kickoff return by Raymond Beamon to give the Tigers a 28-21 victory and 3-0 IVL record.
The night would begin with both teams holding defensively, as neither side could gain any advantage in their early possessions.
After two sacks on Eagle quarterback Jesus Macias, the Tigers received the ball at the Eagle’s 36-yard line. Macias replaced original Eagle starter Cameron Jungers who broke his collar bone in last week’s game in Brawley.
In one play, Tiger wide-out Raymond Beamon took an end around and rushed for all 36 yards giving the Tigers the 7-0 lead early in the second quarter.
As the Eagle offense had trouble moving the ball, it would be the defense that would provide momentum, as later on in the quarter, Tyler Saikhon intercepted a Tiger pass and returned it 55 yards for the touchdown. The play tied the score 7-7 with five minutes left in the half.
The Tigers then responded with a 6 play, 62-yard drive with Ben Hueso showing tough-running, between the tackles, and an electrifying 22-yard touchdown catch-and-run by Raymond Beamon to put the Tigers up 14-7 at the halftime break.
On the Tigers’ first possession of the next half, the Eagle defense held them to a three-and-out, when a miscue on the snap during the punt led to a turnover on downs rather than deep punt, giving the Eagles great starting field position at the Tiger 35-yard line.
From there, a six-play drive culminating with a pass from Macias to Saikhon tied the game, 14-14, midway through the third.
As both teams traded defensive stops, the next big play came from Imperial lineman, Isaac Topete, as he recovered a fumble deep in Southwest territory.
Starting from the Eagle 16-yard line, the Tiger’s Hueso carried the ball 5 times for all 16 yards, including the five-yard touchdown, giving Imperial the 21-14 lead going into the fourth quarter.
It would all come down to a dramatic fourth quarter finish, when after a Saikhon rush-dominated drive, Macias would QB sneak in the last yard to tie the game yet again. This time, at 21-21, with 3:17 left to play in the game.
The next kickoff fell into the hands of senior Raymond Beamon at the Imperial fifteen, who reeled off a highlight-tape run to pay dirt, breaking tackles and outrunning defenders for the 85-yard touchdown return, giving the Tigers the 28-21 victory, and continue their quest for a back-to-back IVL championship.
“Once again, people were writing us off,” said Tiger head coach Kerry Legarra. The Tigers began the season 0-5 but are on a three game league winning streak this year. “And these kids they just come together as a family and a unit and they play for each other.”
“Were 3-0 and Brawley’s 3-0 and whoever wins is going to be leading the league. We will prepare our kids and they’ll work hard and be ready to play and so will Brawley’s, so hopefully it will be a great game,” said Legarra.
On the night for the Tigers, Brandon Hueso rushed 32 times for 179 yards and one touchdown. Raymond Beamon would take 7 receptions for 71 yards and two touchdowns as well as the 85-yard punt return touchdown.
For the Eagles, Tyler Saikhon would rush for 102 yards on 14 carries and would catch two passes for 33 yards and a touchdown, and an interception return for a touchdown as well.
The Southwest eagles will look to regroup from back to back losses in IVL as they host the Palo Verde Valley Yellowjackets next week with kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m. and recharge in preparation for the CIF division IV playoffs
Up next for the Tigers is the annual meeting with the Brawley High Wildcats. The winner of this matchup has gone on to win the IVL title for the last six years, with this year’s game set for 7 p.m. next Friday at Imperial High School.[envira-gallery id=”87261″]