BRAWLEY – Paraphrasing Shakespeare, the question was asked, To “B” or Not To “B”?
Brawley answered that Friday night on Warne Field. It was To “B” a victory for the Wildcats.
The much anticipated rematch brought the Imperial Tigers into town with sights of advancing to a semi-final game next week with a win over the Wildcats, but for Imperial (it was Not To “B”) The B-Town Wildcats offensive line and tough defense proved that their first victory over the Tigers in the regular season was “NO FLUKE”. The Brawley Wildcats earned a chance to represent the IVL a fourth time in a Semi-final game since entering San Diego CIF section. As the time ran off the clock, the scoreboard showed Brawley-26 Imperial 21.
The game, by opinions from both sides, was too early in the playoffs. A semi-final meeting would have been more reasonable or even a Championship game. Now the best from the Imperial Valley League will play at Madison High School on Black Friday since the Warhawks beat Mount Miguel 46-38 in the other bracket.
Brawley won the coin toss elected to receive the ball. Isaak Comparan took the opening kickoff and gave the Wildcats great field position to start drive number one at their 47 yard line. The first drive resembled a lot of what had occurred in the first game. It lasted four and a half minutes as they used Comparan, Jared Mohammed, and Tanner Rollins on eleven plays and a 53 yard drive. With 7:30 left in the first the Wildcats were up 7-0 with the PAT conversion.
On Imperials first drive, begun at their 25, they only gained two yards and an incomplete pass. It was a three and out, the Tigers punted to Brawley who began a second drive from their 28 yard line.
A different look on this drive found Bryce Alexander with the opening, along with the usual Mohammed, Rollins and Comparan. The Wildcats were faced with a long 3rd and 17. Josh Godinez dropped back to pass but was forced to run as the pocket collapsed. Gaining only 5 yards brought a long 4th and 12. The costly drive became more so as quarterback Godinez slowly rose. Brawley punted and Imperial had the ball on their 24 yard line. It was the last play for Godinez in the game. He entered the game with a bruised left knee and reinjured it on the run.
The Tigers began their second drive with 2:21 left in the first quarter down 7-0. Runs by Royce Freeman and Davion Stovall provided them with two first downs at the end of the first quarter. Stovall gained the bulk of the yards as the Wildcats were keying on Freeman. On a second and goal at the one, QB Chris Carter scored his first of three touchdowns and tied the game at 7-7.
Sophomore QB Ross Rubio now stood behind center and began a third drive for the Wildcats at their 23 yard line. It was obvious the game had changed its course, and Brawley punted after a three and out. Sophomore Andrew Ortiz punted for the Wildcats and he did not disappoint. His first varsity punt netted 60 yards and they downed it at the Tiger 16 yard line. Imperial was now on the verge of taking their first lead versus the Wildcats this season.
It ran hot and cold for the Tigers in the passing department. They had a long first down catch to the Brawley 42. Two runs by Royce netted negative one yard and a short pass of two yards had the Tigers punting again, trapping the Wildcats deep in their territory. It looked dismal as they began at the one yard line.
QB Ross Rubio, whose performance during the game later earned him the coveted “Rock”, sparked the offense with a first carry of nine yards for a 2nd and 1. Another one resulted in a first down. Next, an explosion from Jared Mohammed led him to open field once again in a play that resembled his long run in the Bell game two weeks prior. But the Tigers, who have more speed than the Spartans, prevented a touchdown by tackling Mohammed at the Tiger 8. The Wildcats offense lit the spark of confidence on their next play when Ross Rubio scored on a QB keeper from 8 yards out. The PAT was not good and it was 13-7 with 5:18 left in the half.
Imperial faced near disaster in the ensuing kickoff as the Wildcats recovered a fumble on the Tiger 27 yard line. After one run of negative three yards, Brawley fumbled back to Imperial and the Tigers took back the driver’s seat. After a loss of one by Royce, Imperial returned to the passing game. As the Brawley defensive line rushed QB Chris Carter, he found Wildcat Donavin Buck wide open, who made the interception and returned the ball to the Imperial 11 yard line. In a span of less than three minutes- 3 turnovers. The Wildcats could not convert enough yardage to achieve a first and goal, the Tiger defense held. With 1:59 left in the half, Imperial had one more chance at taking the lead.
The Tigers used four doses of Freeman on this drive and moved the ball to Brawley’s 43 yard line. The Wildcat pass defense prevented any more big plays. The last play of the half ended on a quarterback sack, Brawley’s lead held 13-7.
The second half began as the Tigers received the kickoff and returned it to their 25 yard line. Three identical plays with sweeps to Davion Stovall only produced a fourth and three. The Tigers punted to the Wildcats.
The Brawley Wildcats started their first drive in the second half at their 23 yard line and looked to Mohammed. He gained six yards and on the next play, Sophomore Ross Rubio, fooled the Tiger defense with a QB keeper of 56 yards to Imperial’s 15 yard line. Once again Mohammed carried two more times, the second carry he found pay dirt with 8:41 left and the Wildcats lead 20-7 after the PAT conversion was good.
Another sizzled-out drive by the Tigers had them punting to the Wildcat’s 27 yard line. When Brawley found themselves with a fourth and inches, Imperial gave a first down gift with an offside penalty. The drive continued with carries by Rubio, Mohammed and Rollins which stalled as the Tigers defense held on a fourth and one at the Tiger 43 yard line.
On a mission, the Tiger’s Royce found some positive yardage to the Tiger 46 and a penalty gave Imperial the ball on the Wildcats 49 yard line. After a big completion from QB Chris Carter clear to the Wildcats 15 yard line, the Tigers utilized Royce Freeman with three plays to the one and ended the third quarter. On the first play of the fourth, Chris Carter snuck in his second TD of the game. It was now 20-14 with Brawley leading.
Trailing by only six points, the Tigers allowed Mr. Momentum to swing back to the Wildcat’s side of the field. Bryce Alexander picked up a rolling kickoff and returned it to the Tiger’s 16 yard line for an almost 80 yarder. After a couple runs by Rubio and Mohammed, a pitch to Comparan found Isaak in the Tiger end zone with 10:22 left in the game. The PAT was blocked and the lead was 26-14.
Brawley’s defense could have been nicknamed “Three and Out” for this game, because that is exactly what Imperial did again. A punt gave them possession on their 46 yard line.
The Wildcats continued to keep a simple game plan. Steady hand offs to Mohammed and QB runs by Rubio achieved some first downs. The ball reached the Tiger 24 yard line but the drive stalled after an unsuccessful 4th and 3. Imperial trailed by twelve but possessed the ball with 5:10 left in the game.
The Wildcats were able to “Stop” Royce Freeman, this game, even though he had over 100 yards for the game. He would not be allowed a TD run for the evening but that set the play of the evening for the Tigers. QB Chris Carter scrambled for a 63 yard TD run and put Imperial within less than a TD.
Uneasy Wildcat fans saw Imperial lined up in formation to recover an onside kick, another score was a real threat.
The onside kick was recovered by Zach Krigbaum at the Wildcat 27 yard line. All that was left was to gain enough yardage for a few first downs to run down the 2:52 left on the clock. Even when it was obvious who would be given the ball, Mohammed gained enough for one first down at their 40. Another run of almost ten yards had the Wildcats with a 2nd and less than a yard. The Tiger defense won the next two battles as they prevented Mohammed from getting a first down. Again, the Wildcats faced a 4th and inches, now with less than two minutes left in the game. On the next play, the refs penalized the Imperial defense for only the second time of the game. Like the previous penalty, it allowed the Wildcats to gain enough yardage for the first down. The time on the clock was allowed to expire with the final 26-21 in favor of the Brawley Wildcats.
The Wildcats will now travel to Madison High for a semifinal matchup. It is Brawley’s first time in the semifinals since the 2005 season. In that game, the Wildcats played at Point Loma in an early game on Saturday. After that season, San Diego CIF made it mandatory to play semifinal games on Friday nights on a lighted field. The other opponents Brawley has faced in the semifinals are 2001 (Marion Catholic now Mater Dei) and 2004 USDHS (now Cathedral). The Warhawks are the number 2 seeded team and although they are favored, Brawley’s defense give the Wildcats an opportunity to play in a Championship game.
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