The Imperial Tigers hosted the Brawley Union High Wildcats this past Friday night in a crucial IVL matchup between the only two IVL undefeated teams, the winner of which would end up in the driverâ€™s seat heading into the final week of IVL.Â Both teams saw a high turnout of spectators as fans came to enjoy the much-anticipated game.
In the end, the Wildcats would jump ahead and hold off the valiant Tiger fight, defeating Imperial 44-22, jumping to 4-0 in league and one win away from the 2016 league crown.
Brawley would strike first with a six play 64-yard drive behind runs on the inside from senior running back Austyn Gutierrez and capped off by an 11-yard touchdown run by junior George Mickle on the Wildcat first possession of the game.
The Tigers responded later in the first quarter on a drive centered around Brandon Hueso, who carried the ball 7 of 12 plays, including the touchdown run on 1st, tying the score at 7-7.
From there, the Wildcats utilized big plays and a solid defense to jump out to a big lead heading into the half.
Gutierrez scored on a 46-yard touchdown rush to give Brawley the 14-7 lead.
After a defensive stop forced a punt, George Mickle again found the end zone on a 65-yard punt return to pay dirt, putting the Wildcats up 21-7.
The last score of the half would again be scored by Gutierrez, this time a 78-yard touchdown making it 28-7 heading into the half.
The beginning of the second half would continue with momentum in Brawley’s favor when on the first play from scrimmage, Brawley senior A.J. Grijalva intercepted a pass and returned it 25 yards for another Brawley touchdown giving Brawley a 35-7 lead early in the third.
Imperial would find a spark in the third behind senior quarterback, Pete Sanchez, and sophomore wide out, Santiago De La Torre, as they connected for two touchdowns on back to back offensive plays within 21 seconds of each other in game time.
The first was a 15-yard touchdown connection with 7:18 left in the third quarter. After a Wildcat fumble on their first offensive play was recovered by Imperial Senior Josh Gutierrez, Sanchez and De La Torre again linked up, this time for a thirty-yard touchdown pass and reception with 6:57 left in the third quarter.
With the score now at 34-22, the Wildcats stalled the Tiger offense on its next possession. A field goal from Braulio Guzman took their lead to 37-22 with over eight minutes left in the game.
A Tiger fumble recovered by the Wildcats on the next Tiger possession led to a Brawley drive, highlighted by a 4th down heave from Wildcat quarterback A.J. Grijalva to sophomore wide out Casey Kline on fourth down, and capped by another touchdown run from Austyn Gutierrez, his third of the night bringing the score to its final of 44-22.
“I think we came out and executed the way we wanted to in the first half,” said Wildcat head coach Jon Self of his squad early on in the game.
“Our seniors came out and led the way, the way they’re supposed to.”
On the night, Austyn Gutierrez finished with 283 yards rushing on 34 carries and three touchdowns.
For the Tigers, Brandon Hueso carried the ball 34 times for 160 yards and one touchdown.Â Pete Sanchez threw for 207 yards on 19 completions and 29 attempts and two touchdowns, both to Santiago De La Torre.
The Imperial Tigers will be on the road next week as they head to Palo Verde to take on the Yellow Jackets in their last game of the regular season and IVL play.
The Wildcats will be at home taking on the Central Spartans in the annual Bell Game, and with a victory, will be alone at the top of IVL for the 2016 season.
“They’re our big rival, and it’s an important game because it’s what we need to win league outright,” said Self, looking toward next week’s matchup.[envira-gallery id=”87524″]