IMPERIAL – The defending champs Imperial Valley Tigers opened the 2016 season Friday night, hosting Yuma’s Cibola High Raiders in an unforgettable classic that left everyone at Shimamoto-Simpson stadium speechless by the time the time the clock read 0:00.
The Tigers jumped on board first, receiving the kickoff after a touchback at the 20-yard line. Despite two false starts, the Tigers systematically marched down the field behind runs from junior running back Brandon Hueso and a surprising aerial attack by sophomore Wyatt Rodriguez, hitting Raymond Beamon and Ted Vogel for big completions in the drive. After stalling in the five yard line, it would be Hueso who punched in the final yard on a Wildcat formation giving the Tigers a 7-0 lead early in the game.
Cibola’s next possession netted them a first down, but nothing more, forcing them to punt.
The punt would be downed inside the Tigers’ 10-yard line, which proved critical for the Raiders. On the first play, a high snap ended with an end zone Raiders possession, cutting the Tiger lead to 7-6 after a missed extra point attempt.
With momentum now on their side, the Raiders defense clamped down and forced a Tiger turnover on downs on the next possession.
Raiders running back Jesus Romero would be the workhorse, rushing seven times on the 14 play drives, capped off with a touchdown pass from quarterback Curtis Wolf to Gabriel Claudio. After another missed extra point, the Raiders led 12-7 early in the second quarter.
Exchanging punts on their next two possessions, it would be the Tigers that drew blood next, executing a seven play, 72-yard drive, highlighted by a 17-yard fourth down catch and run by Tigers wide, Raymond Beamon, and capped again by a one-yard touchdown by Brandon Hueso.
Up 14-12 with 5:18 left in the second quarter, the Tigers’ defense again had a hard time getting off the field, as the Raiders converted in third and long, and fourth and short on their next drive, going 80 yards on 11 plays, giving the Raiders a 20-14 lead going into the half, after a converted two point conversion.
In the third quarter, Cibola added to their lead, scoring on the first drive of the half and converting their extra point.
The Tigers needed a spirited fourth quarter, as they went into the last frame with a 14-27 deficit. Respond they did, as a defensive Tigers series gave them the ball at the Raiders’ 30-yard line.
Taking advantage of the field position, the Tigers brought the ball to the two-yard line in six plays before Hueso again utilized the Wildcat formation and punched it from there for the score, with 9:51 left in the game.
Imperial’s last chance would be an 80-yard drive with only 1:18 left to play.
A pass to Santiago De La Torre started the drive. A personal foul call stopped the ball on the Tigers 45-yard line. From there, the unthinkable happened. Sophomore quarterback, Wyatt Rodriguez, attempted a pass to senior receiver David Savage down the middle of the field. The ball took a deflection in traffic, and while still in midair, Savage maintained his composure and secured the improbable catch before racing into the end zone for the 55-yard touchdown reception.
All that was needed now was an extra point field goal. The Tigers were 3-3 on them throughout the day. However, it was not to be, as the Cibola front line crashed into the backfield and blocked the field goal sending the game to overtime.
High school overtime follows rules similar to college football. Both teams get a possession from the 25-yard line and the team with the most points after the possession wins the game.
In the first overtime, miscues from both teams led to no score, sending the game to a double overtime.
In double overtime, the Raiders took control of the first possession as a four-play drive, again behind the legs of Jesus Romero, and gave the Raiders a 33-27 lead.
All the Tigers needed was a touchdown and a converted extra point for the win. Yet, the Raiders’ defense clamped down and finished the game with an interception, handing the Tigers a loss in the first game of the season.
“We played well, but we still have some room to grow,” said Tigers Head Coach Kerry Legarra.
“If we can improve like we did last week to this week we’ll be fine. We just have to continue to strive to get better. We’ll take it one game at a time, one week at a time,” Legarra said.
For the Tigers, debut quarterback Wyatt Rodriguez opened his high school football career throwing 20 completions on 30 attempts, for 321 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. On the ground, Brandon Hueso rushed for 86 yards and three touchdowns.
Up next, the Tigers will travel to Yuma next Friday to face Yuma Catholic, with kickoff slated for 7 p.m.[envira-gallery id=”83496″]