IMPERIAL – The Game of the Week between the 2013 defending IVL Champion, Imperial Tigers, and the Brawley Wildcats played out on Friday evening on Simpson-Shimamoto field with the winners one step closer to the 2014 IVL Title. In a game loaded with playoff intensity the past few years- this one followed in the tradition.
It was supposed to be a physical game on the field and it was on just about every play. This year followed the tradition of the visiting team coming out victorious for the past five years as the Brawley Wildcats scored 35 unanswered points to leave no doubt on whom the better team was in the Imperial Valley League. When it was all done the scoreboard showed the Guests 35 and Home 8.
After witnessing last year’s incredible 4 TD performance by Royce Freeman with 269 yards on 29 carries, one would not have imagined that that performance by the now famous Oregon Duck could be surpassed….but it was. Friday night, Andrew Ortiz outshined it with a stunning 238 yards on 20 carries, adding another 45 yards on two receptions for an amazing 283 all-purpose yards and 4 TD’s of his own. The rushing total now gives Ortiz 1280 yards on 155 carries.
With Brawley fans seeing Red everywhere, including the opposing stands and behind them, along the canal banks, it did not appear that a lopsided victory would be possible Friday night.
Deferring the opening kickoff, the Wildcats put their defense on the field first. They forced an early punt by the Tigers and with 9:22 left in the first quarter, the offense took their turn. With the smoke still billowing over the field from the burgers cooked during pregame, and three plays into their first drive, the Wildcats were on the scoreboard. Runs by Ortiz of 40 and 8 yards were two of the big plays with the latter being the TD. The point after was good and Brawley led 7-0 with 8:47 left in the first quarter.
At the time It was inconceivable that those were the lone points scored during the first half. With that lone touchdown, both teams went into their locker rooms.
For the first half, Imperial was successful moving the ball with different players getting catches and carries for 144 yards of total offense. They were even able to cross the goal line for an apparent TD themselves, but were penalized when a lineman aided his teammate into the promise land of six points.
When the Tigers reached the one-yard line the Wildcat defense was not willing to cede to their ten straight shut-out quarters just yet. The Tigers defense equaled the Wildcats, not including the TD, in the first half, allowing only 149 yards total offense to the Wildcats.
Coming out in the second half, the Wildcats used only 1:02 into the third quarter for a 14-0 lead increase. Starting at their 38, after a pooch kickoff, the magical third play from this drive was a 52 yard TD run by Ortiz.
The ensuing kickoff proved disastrous when a fair catch attempt was muffed and the Wildcats recovered for great field position on the Tiger 23 yard line. Five plays later Ross Rubio connected with Andrew Ortiz for a 28 yard TD pass that was created when Sophomore AJ Grijalva made a crushing block on a Tiger defender. Ortiz saw nothing but daylight to the end zone. The PAT was good and it was 21-0.
Brawley’s defense tightened up on the Tiger’s next drive, then the Wildcats began scoring drive number four from their own 29-yard line, after a fifteen-yard penalty on a punt return. The second play had Ortiz wrestle free on a breakaway for 71 yards and his fourth TD of the game. The PAT was good for a 28-0 score.
Brawley’s next score came the vintage Wildcat way. A 19-play drive that began late in the third and continued into the fourth quarter for almost eleven minutes and 94 yards. The final five yards were by Austyn Gutierrez who was unable to play in last week’s game at Calexico. Omar Celis once again was perfect on PATs, making it a 35-0 lead.
A stellar Wildcat defense with four shutouts this season was only 20 seconds away from performing the “Hat Trick” of three in a row.
Imperial’s scoring drive began on their 20-yard line and needed ten plays to complete. A two-point conversion was successful for the final play of the game and thus the 35-8 score.
The win for the Wildcats has them two victories away from the IVL Title that has been the second item on their “To Do” list. Only the Palo Verde Yellow Jackets and the Central Spartans stand in their path.
The big win helps Brawley in the seedings for the CIF playoffs, but the final two games could be the deciding factor of whether they get a top four seed and a “Bye” the first round or not.
Division II is extremely competitive and this loss might have pushed the Imperial Tigers out of the twelfth position, but Mission Bay lost big to La Jolla. Imperial must win the last two games for them to have a chance for the dance.
The only negative Wildcat stat was the loss of the string of consecutive game interceptions. That streak almost continued on a pass towards the Brawley sidelines. The best Wildcat catch of the year came by way of Coach Landy, who unfortunately, was both out of bounds and not suited up.
Imperial QB, Aaron Bonillas, didn’t miss many of his targets finishing the evening with 11-15 and 114 yards- and no ‘in bound’ interceptions.
Congratulations to all the coaches and players on both teams. Be sure to read this week’s “After Further Review” on the online edition (www.thedesertreview.com) to break down this game’s defensive standouts and how the playoff picture looks for all the teams in IVL.