BRAWLEY — The Valley Center High School Jaguar football team visited Warne Field to face the Brawley Union High Wildcats Friday night. Both teams were trying to avoid 0-2 records to begin the season, but only one would succeed.
With an impressive display of ball control and clock management, the Jaguars were able to avoid the skid and handed the Wildcats its first ever 0-2 start since entering the CIF-San Diego section.
The Valley Center team body ability to move right, left, and up the middle in unison was demonstrated by way of 41 rushes and a 175-yard performance from Valley Center’s running back, Andrew Navarro. Adding to the offensive totals was the Jaguar’s quarterback Rhett Reilly who unofficially threw for 144 yards on 15 completions in 26 attempts with one touchdown and an interception. The Jaguars, who scored the first 21 points of the game, were victorious 21-14 even after a valiant Wildcat comeback effort in the final quarter.
The Wildcats and Jaguars both exchanged punts on their opening drives, but when Brawley started its second set of downs, the Wildcats handed the Jaguars the first break. Valley Center had a short field when it recovered the loose ball deep on Brawley’s 31-yard line. Seven straight runs by Navarro, and the Jaguars were up 7-0 with 4:38 left in the first quarter.
For the remainder of the first half, the Wildcats offense would have difficulty moving the ball consistently with no more first downs until the third quarter. The stingy Jaguar defense allowed just one on the Wildcats’ opening drive. All this was in contrast to Valley Center’s ability to move the ball, getting ten first downs and 160, of its 347 yards of offense, by the midpoint.
In the middle of the second quarter with 5:29 left, Jaguars were deep in Wildcat territory and threatening to extend the lead to two touchdowns. Then, Nathan Suits picked off his first interception of the year. Taking the ball from around the Brawley 15-yard line, Suits raced down the sidelines and reached the end zone, but had stepped out of bounds at the Valley Center 40-yard line. The Wildcats were unable to capitalize on the turnover and it remained 7-0 at half.
The third quarter’s first drive by the Jaguars used more than six minutes, as Navarro’s rushes chipped away both yards and time off the clock. An 80-yard drive was sprinkled with more Reilly passes, as well, to increase the lead. With 5:43 of the third quarter, Reilly threw his only touchdown pass of the game to his brother, Trent Reilly, for an eight yard score. During the extra point attempt, two offside penalties by the Wildcats allowed the Jaguars an easy two conversion attempt. Navarro ran back on the field and extended the lead to 15-0.
Brawley began finding a little success on its first drive of the second half. Starting at its 22-yard line, the Wildcats used four pass attempts and four rushes to move into Jaguar territory.
One play was a costly mistake in which a holding penalty moved the ball back to the Wildcat 39-yard line. On a third-down and 22, A.J. Grijalva threw his first interception of the season and it was returned to the Wildcat 9 yard by Valley Center’s Brock Moffit. One run by Navarro was good for nine yards and a 21-0 lead with 2:13 left in the third quarter.
The next drive for the Wildcats didn’t gain much yardage, but worse, had them lose 15 yards on a costly unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. It forced Brawley to punt from their 30-yard line.
One of the high points of the Wildcats this season has been the kicking game. Sophomore punter George Mickle unloaded yet another booming kick deep into Jaguar territory and it was muffed by a Jaguar punt returner. Suits was able to recover the loose rock at the Valley Center five-yard line and the Wildcats took advantage of the miscue in one play. Suits ran in for a touchdown on that one play and Brawley trailed 21-7 with 27 seconds left in the third quarter.
Both teams traded punts into the fourth quarter. Valley Center was very close to insuring the victory when it drove to the Brawley 24-yard line but a Wildcat defensive stance gave its fans a bit of hope for a comeback victory.
Four plays later found the Wildcats punting again and this punt went to the Jaguar 37-yard line. The Jaguars ran Navarro twice on this drive but on the second carry Joab Torres caused Navarro to fumble and the Wildcats recovered on Valley Center’s 41-yard line. Two big passes by Grijalva to Suits of 14 yards and a 21-yarder to Kevin Kastner got the ball to the Jaguars’ six-yard line. Suits scored from one yard out after a previous run of five yards. David Quintero kicked the extra point through the uprights for a 21-14 deficit with 2:19 left in the game.
Brawley was unable to keep the Jaguars from running out the clock and thus preserved a victory for Valley Center. The Wildcats’ record drops to 0-2 after losing its first two home games. The next four games find the Wildcats traveling on the road.
They will play in Indio and face Shadow Hills High School next Friday at 7 p.m. They will follow that game with two consecutive trips to Yuma and play at Cibola High and Gila Ridge High. A bye week will precede the Imperial Valley League opener at Southwest High School in El Centro.[envira-gallery id=”63893″]