Wildcats 0-1 … But Not For Long

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The Brawley Union High football team fell to Christian High, 38-21, in the season opener in Brawley last week. Photo by: Lloyd Miller
The Brawley Union High football team fell to Christian High, 38-21, in the season opener in Brawley last week. Photo by: Lloyd Miller

The Brawley Union High Wildcats season opener last week on Warne Field was one to put in the history books as lessons learned in the loss to the visiting Christian High Patriots. The Patriots might not have deflated the footballs in this game, but hopefully they didn’t deflate the Wildcats for the rest of the season.

After further reviewing the game stats and film, two big plays and a couple of mistakes by Brawley were worth 21 points against the Wildcats. Yet, there were some very bright spots, even in the loss to start the season. If the Wildcats can put their ‘claws’ together, this looks like a team that can repeat its season of last year and maybe go one step further.

The Brawley Wildcat offense put up some big numbers with 448 yards on 65 plays. This total surpassed the Patriot’s total of 436 on only 48 plays. And for those that were thinking and saying the yards must have come against the substitutes, think again. The totals in rushing in the first half were 190 yards on 30 carries versus the 106 yards on 21 carries in the second half.

In passing, first-year Wildcat quarterback A.J. Grijalva (7-for-14) threw for 71 of his 152 yards in the first half. He also added 29 yards rushing on 7 carries, plus one touchdown run of 78 yards which was called back on a penalty.

Top rusher for the game was senior Nathan Suits with 142 yards on 25 carries. Sophomore George Mickle was impressive not only for 71 yards on nine carries but he also had three receptions for 60 yards. Austyn Gutierrez followed with 46 yards on eight carries and two receptions for 40 yards. Much credit must be given to the offensive linemen who made these totals possible. Isaiah Martinez, the only lineman returning from last season, had help from Marcus Martinez, Isaac Delgado, Alex Campbell and Justin Gonzalez at center. Brawley lost their starting center Kevin Montañez to injury in last week’s scrimmage at University City.

Defensively, the Wildcats were faced with a huge task of slowing down a potent offense. Their leading rusher, 2,146 yards last season, was held to under 100 yards for only the third time when handed the ball thirteen or more carries.

Patriot quarterback Jeremiah throws for 307 yards in a normal day at the office. He threw for almost 3,000 yards last season and could be doing the same again this year, as well.

Defensively for Brawley, Blake Zeleny was tops in defensive points with eight tackles, a sack, and a hurry (forcing the quarterback to throw before intending to). Mickle and Alex Campbell also had big games on defense. Both had 20 defensive points where Mickle had six tackles and batted two passes incomplete. Campbell had six tackles, one for loss of yards that was reminiscent of his brother Remington from the 2013 season.

Johnny Marquez (five tackles) and Alek Aguirre (six tackles, one sack) both had 13 defensive points. They showed great signs of filling in spots that were left vacant from last year’s seniors.

Up next are the Jaguars of Valley Center. They opted to play in Brawley again this season to prevent two Imperial Valley trips in the same year. They will host Imperial Tigers in a few weeks. This game could be a first but neither team wants that first to occur.

Should Brawley lose this game, it will have them 0-2 to start a season for the first time since before entering the San Diego section. The Wildcats would much rather be on the other side in which they could be the only Brawley team to beat the Jaguars in consecutive seasons.

Brawley has beaten Valley Center twice, once in 1998 and again last year. All the games in between have been Jaguar victories, including the ever so famous “Q” game in 2004. The Jaguars are also facing the same 0-2 start situation after a comeback win by the Mater Dei Crusaders 29-23 in Valley Center which dropped them to 0-1.

The Jaguars have key position players who didn’t get much playing time last season against Brawley. They totaled just 298 yards on offense of which 191 were rushing and 107 yards were passing. Andrew Navarro rushed for 176 yards on 41 carries. Quarterback Rhett Reilly saw the entire game from the sidelines and watched as the Jaguars nearly came from behind 35-7 and lose 35-28 on the arm of then quarterback Daniel Deleon.

The Jaguars are always a tough team to beat and this season shouldn’t be any different. Expect a tough game from both teams as neither wants to fall to a 0-2 record. Both teams are listed in Division II. Game time is scheduled at 7:00 but could change since the Junior Varsity game will precede the Varsity.

This is also the evening of the Kickoff BBQ that is held at the Lion’s Center prior to the start of the Varsity game. Come to both the Kickoff BBQ and football game and support the Wildcats. Hope to see you there.