“Under the Sea” of a dominating Wildcat defense, the Brawley Union High School Wildcats varsity football team took another step forward in quest of the IVL Title. The undefeated (6-0) Southwest High School Eagles of El Centro entered the game averaging over 40 points in six games but failed to score as Brawley held the Eagles to 55 total yards for the entire evening. (26 yards passing and 29 rushing) and forced three turnovers enroute to a 17-0 Homecoming shutout victory. The win improves the Wildcats’ record to 4-3 overall, but most importantly 2-0 in the IVL standings.
It was a game that wasn’t expected to have a low scoring output as the Wildcats have given up 59 points to the Cibola Raiders earlier in the year. Defense was in full bloom by both teams as the first quarter ended with 0-0 showing on the scoreboard. There were only three first downs produced, two by Southwest and one by Brawley, in the opening stanza.
The Eagle defense actually produced the first big defensive play of the game. On a fourth and two yards at the Southwest 40 yard line, Brawley gambled on a trick play in which appeared they would be punting. A short snap to A.J. Grijalva didn’t fool anybody and the Eagles had great field possession towards the end of the first quarter. The Brawley defense was just getting warmed up though and forced Southwest to punt on the last play of the first quarter.
Brawley’s offense didn’t fare any better as it went on a three and out and they punted to the Eagles. The first big break of the game came for the Wildcats when George Mickle picked off a Cameron Jungers pass at the 43 yard line and returned it to the Eagle 26. A penalty on the return brought the ball back to the Brawley 43 yard line. (Brawley was penalized 11 times for a total of 110 yards.)
The Wildcats could not cash in the interception for any points and once again were forced to punt the ball back to Southwest.
A Mickle punt sailed high to a waiting Tyler Saikhon, but it was allowed to roll into the end zone. Saikhon attempted to prevent a speeding Austyn Gutierrez from downing the rolling football inside the five yard line. Unfortunately, the strategy backfired when the ball took a bad bounce and struck Saikhon on the leg then rolled into the end zone as a live ball. Blake Zeleney alertly gained possession in the end zone for a Brawley touchdown. With 7:16 until halftime the Wildcats were up 7-0 after a Braulio Guzman extra point kick was good.
Southwest’ next drive yielded only one first down and on a fourth and one from their 47 yard line, another gamble, this time by the Eagles attempting to extend their possession. A loss of three yards by the Wildcat smothering defense turned over the ball to Brawley on its 48 yard line with under five minutes left in the half. Four plays later, Gutierrez (28 carries for 238 yards and one touchdown) had his longest run of the game to that point with a 41 yard dash to increase the lead to 14-0 with 3:09 left until the half.
While there was no more scoring done by either team in the remaining three minutes, a very critical play during Southwests’ next possession occurred. Cameron Jungers, rolling out of the pocket trying to pass, was hit hard by defensive standout Blake Zeleney. A personal foul of roughing the passer was called on Zeleney and he was ejected from the game. Jungers did not return for the remainder of the game due to an unknown injury.
The entire second half only netted three points by the Wildcats. That came on the first field goal attempt by Brawley’s Braulio Guzman on a 22 yard attempt. He made the best of this opportunity by splitting the uprights for a lead increase of 17-0 with 1:12 left in the third quarter.
Two drives by the Eagles were cut short on two interceptions by A.J. Grijalva that preserved the scoreless defensive effort by the Wildcat defense.
The win is one step closer to the IVL title that eluded them last year. With three games remaining, all games are important and will be tough. Their next game will be at Calexico on Friday the 21st, who lost to Palo Verde in Blythe 34-28. The Bulldogs were 5-0 heading into IVL League play but have suffered two losses. Kickoff will be at 7:00 p.m. in Calexico at Ward Field.
Photos: Dina Self and Brett Miller[envira-gallery id=”86740″]