BRAWLEY — The 73rd Annual Victory Bell Game between the Central Union High School Spartans and the hosting Brawley Union High School Wildcats played itself out at Warne Field on a beautiful fall evening of Friday Night Lights. All of the hype and anticipation of the rivalry game that has been created throughout the decades lived up to its saga, including an unexpected surprise no one could have predicted. The Wildcats were victorious once again for its 50 Bell Game victory and seventh in a row. They did it with plenty of offense (364 total yards on 47 plays) and a stingy defense that held the Spartans (148 yards on 39 plays) to only seven points in a 42-7 Brawley Wildcat victory.
Receiving the opening kickoff and beginning its first drive on its own 38 yard line, the Wildcats used only five plays to strike first. Brawley utilized three seniors playing their final Bell Game, A.J. Gijalva, Austyn Gutierrez, and Johnny Marquez, who contributed on the 62 yard drive that was highlighted with a 21-yard pass from Grijalva to Marquez. The exclamation point came on a 36-yard touchdown run by Gutierrez (16 carries for 142 yards and four touchdowns) at 9:34 left in the first. It was a 7-0 lead after a successful PAT by Braulio Guzman (6-6 on PAT).
The Wildcats’ defense produced a quick three and out (punt) by Central’s Ricky Guzman which sailed to the Brawley 19-yard line. It was fielded by George Mickle, who gave the Wildcats great field position on a 36-yard return to the Spartan 45 yard line. Grijalva (69 yards on 14 carries) then ran for 12 yards and threw another effective pass of 18 yards to Casey Kline, reaching the Central seven yard line. From there, Gutierrez would find the end zone for a second time with 5:08 left in the first and give his team a 14-0 lead.
Central took possession number two from their 22-yard line, and although they were able to get a first down behind the wheels of Ricky Guzman (103 yards on 21 carries), they had to punt after five offensive plays. The punt changed the momentum of the game, when a costly fumble on the return was recovered by the Spartans at the Brawley 30-yard line. The drive continued with three more Guzman runs which included a 20-yard touchdown. The Wildcat lead was cut in half to 14-7 with 0:48 seconds left in the first. It brought life to the visiting crowd as the Spartans would have the chance to tie the game after another Brawley fumble early in the second quarter.
The Spartans were now on their 34-yard line with an opportunity to even the score up, but five plays later Brawley’s Michael Moreno would recover a Central fumble at midfield to prevent it from occurring. The Wildcats, now at midfield with a seven point lead, would extend it to a 14 point lead on a sloppy eight-play drive that included five penalties (two by the Wildcats and three by the Spartans). The 21-7 halftime lead for the Wildcats was made at the 5:46 mark of the second quarter on a 5-yard Gutierrez touchdown run.
Having missed the shot at tying the game before halftime, Central would begin the third quarter receiving the ball and trailed by 14 points. Starting at its 26-yard line, the Spartans were able to get one first down but a rested Brawley defense shut down any thought further scoring by the Central Spartans. The Spartans punted once again to the Wildcats with 8:10 left in the third quarter.
The Wildcats next drive would include a 26-yard touchdown run by Grijalva as he would account for 56 of the 75 yards with his passing and running. The drive also included one of the most memorable, not so great, moments in Bell Game history. Central Spartans’ best run of the game was made by “Shirtless” Leonidas (reference to the movie character in “Meet The Spartans”), a spectator who had run onto the field, eluded both referees and police officers on the field and weaved his way across the field untouched. Unfortunately for him, he could not avoid two Wildcat defensive standouts (Blake Zeleney and Ruben Elizalde). “Shirtless” was pushed out of bounds along the Spartan sidelines, handcuffed by police on duty and escorted off the field, most likely earning him a free meal at the local county Jail.
Following the Grijalva 26-yard touchdown with 1:11 left in the third quarter, disaster struck the Spartans. Wildcat kicker, Braulio Guzman, did his magic once again in this game. He has had many unfielded or mis-fielded kickoffs this season and on this one, miscommunication by two Spartan players caused a live ball that was recovered by Michael Moreno on the Central 29-yard line. The short field allowed for another Brawley score. The touchdown by Gutierrez, a one yarder, was preceded by two big runs of 13 and 16 yards, respectively. With 10:09 left in the game it was now 35-7.
Brawley’s last drive came after another Spartan three and out (punt). They began possession at their 37-yard line with the starters out and the second team taking their shot. Sophomore quarterback Casey Kline led the offensive drive with a big 18-yard run and then was followed two plays later with a huge 42-yard touchdown run by Sophomore Michael Moreno to cap off the scoring for the evening. The scoreboard showed 6:16 left in the game and the Wildcats up 42-7.
“We’ve all worked so hard, I couldn’t be any more proud of these boys,” said Moreno, who scored his first rushing touchdown of his varsity career just moments earlier.
“That touchdown felt amazing, my first time scoring just felt simply amazing.”
The Brawley Wildcats were sitting in the fifth seed of Division II after last weeks win over the Imperial Tigers. Looking at the San Diego CIF power rankings website in Division II, it now shows the Wildcats seeded eighth. They will be hosting the Westview Wolverines next Friday. The Westview Wolverines hold the ninth spot and will be traveling Brawley in the first round on November 11th. The Central Spartans who were sitting in the 13th seed before the Bell game moved up to the 11th spot and should be in the playoffs of Division IV. They will travel to the sixth seeded team, which is currently Coronado High School.