After Further Review (Semifinals at El Capitan)

File Photo - Donavan Buck leads Wildcats onto the field in a night of remembering on Sept 11.
File Photo – Donavan Buck leads Wildcats onto the field in a night of remembering on Sept 11.


A young sports reporter was assigned to write a story on an underdog team by a huge margin for an upcoming high school playoff game.  He set up an interview and prepared questions to ask the coach. The time came for the interview and they sat across from each other. The coach noticed that the reporter didn’t really have any motivation and was just going through the motions. This is how part of the interview went:

Reporter:  “How do you think your team will do on Friday night against Tech High?”

Valley High Coach: “We have prepared for them very well this week.”

Reporter: “How strong are your chances for a victory?”

Valley High Coach: “I am very positive we can beat Tech High on Friday night.”

Reporter: “You are a 40 point underdog in this game. What makes you believe you can overcome the odds and beat Tech High on Friday night?”

Valley High Coach (without a flinch of hesitation): “Because WE are the only ones that are playing them!”

With the Wildcats facing the toughest game of the season against El Capitan this Friday night, Brawley is the underdog by 31 points. According to match up projections the Vacqueros are winning this game 38-7. It’s the same system that had West Hills beating Brawley in last Friday’s game. Truth of the matter is that the game must still be played on the field and not on paper.

The Wildcats are playing in their fifth Semifinals game since 2001 and are in the 10th Anniversary of the “Magical” season of 2004 when only three points separated them and the SDCIF Title that year. It was only two years ago that Coach Jon Self led his boys to this point when their season ended at Madison High School who ended up the eventual Champions that year. In fact, Brawley Wildcats have been ousted by three of the last four Champions and the fourth team, Mission Bay 2013 reached the finals but lost to St. Augustine.

Host El Capitan will serve the Wildcats three courses on Friday night as the Vaqueros have three main weapons on offense. Senior QB Brad Cagle (6’ 1”) has thrown 132 completions for 2185 yards. He has 24 TD passes with only 4 interceptions. Carrying the ball is Senior DJ Smith (6’) who has 1090 yards on 154 carries. He was unable to play in last year’s loss against Imperial and will bring extra motivation in the playoffs. The third entrée is Senior Isaiah Capoocia 5’10” whose total offensive yards are 1121 with 268 rushing and 774 receiving. Enhancing that combination are appetizers, Seniors Zach Cagle and Josheph Lachappa, who have combined for just under 1,000 yards in offense. Defensively they have allowed 131 points while their offense has scored 443 points in their 11-game winning streak.

This will be Brawley’s toughest opponent of the year and the young Wildcats have matured tremendously on the field. They are on a current 10-game winning streak of their own as they head into the semi-final matchup. Defense will have a big task ahead of them and the offense will need both ball and clock-control to keep domination out of the hands of the impressive QB Cagle. Simply put, to get over this Vaquero obstacle the Wildcats will not only have to play a mistake free game but must disrupt the timing of Cagle’s passing. El Capitan has been a team with elusive players who seem to bounce off first hits easily, or avoid them altogether, so that first hard hit is vital.

Brawley is one of the best tackling teams in San Diego section and their swarming defense style proved themselves once again last week against West Hills frustrating the Wolf Pack all evening. You can bet the Wildcats will study game film and be prepared for the biggest game of their lives. Expect them to leave everything on the field until the final seconds tick off the scoreboard.

Wishing the best for all the coaches and players on both sides of the field. Drive safe if you are going to attend the game, 7pm at El Capitan High School on Friday. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

And by the way, Valley High won the game 22-20 after preventing a two-point conversion to tie the game by Tech High at the end.


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