Bulldogs’ defense holds the Hornets, but just barely

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CALEXICO -The Calexico Bulldogs and Calipatria Hornets met Friday in an IVL/Manzanita inter-league matchup at Calexico’s Ward Field, where the Hornets gave the Bulldogs all they could handle and more. Yet, Calipatria came one yard short of scoring an upset in Bulldog territory. Calexico’s dramatic goal line stance gave them a 29-28 victory, their first of the season (1-2).

“I was proud of the kids, the way they played in the fourth quarter. (Ernesto Covarrubias) was hot and we just fed him the ball,” said Calexico Head Coach John Tyree.

The Hornets would strike first behind hard-nosed rushing attack from Chris Zendejas and quarterback Ismael Lopez.

After a Bulldog fumble deep in their own territory recovered by Hornet Julian Medina, it took the Hornets only two plays for Chris Zendejas to find the end zone on a 12-yard rush. The Hornets completed the two-point conversion play on a pass from Ismael Lopez to Julian Medina. The Hornets were soon in command with an 8-0 lead with four minutes left in the first quarter.

After holding the Bulldogs to turnover on downs, the Hornets struck again, this time on a three-play, 50-yard touchdown drive, highlighted by a 45-yard quarterback keeper from Lopez.  

Down 14-0, the Calexico Bulldogs leaned on their defense and after forcing a turnover, found themselves deep in Hornet territory on the 15-yard line. Bulldog running back Ernesto Covarrubias found the end zone on a 12-yard rush, cutting the Hornet lead to 14-7 with eight minutes to go in the second quarter.

The Bulldogs hit early in the second half. On the first play from scrimmage, Bulldog quarterback Jorge Villalobos called his own number on keeper option and go 70 yards to pay dirt. The Bulldogs could not convert their extra point though, giving the Hornets the slim 14-13 lead.

In the fourth, the Hornets scored first again, when after holding the Bulldogs to a turnover on downs, took over from their own 41. From there, Lopez shouldered the load, rushing the ball on six of eight plays on the drive before handing it off to Zendejas at the goal line for an eight-yard touchdown rush.

The extra point conversion was not successful, giving the Hornets a 20-13 lead with 7:06 left to play.

From there, the game veered in its momentum multiple times.

The Bulldogs took over on next possession from their own 38-yard line and two big-play rushes from Covarrubias, one of 27 yards and the other a 34-yard touchdown, again found the end zone. Jorge Villalobos got the 2-point conversion on a QB keeper, giving the Bulldogs a 21-20 lead with 5:59 to play.

After holding the Hornets’ offense on their next possession, Covarrubias found the end zone again, this time on a 25-yard rush in what looked to be the game-ending score.

On what turned out to be a critical two-point conversion play, another keeper from QB Villalobos gave the Bulldogs a two-possession 29-20 lead with less than five minutes to play in the game.

But Calipatria did not go down without a fight. They took their next possession, and with under four minutes to play, kept the Bulldogs and Hornets fans on pins and needles in one of the wildest finishes in recent Valley football memory.

First, the Hornets got their quick score as Ramirez ran on a 38-yard touchdown rush with 3:49 to play. They got a successful two-point conversion on another quarterback keeper from Lopez, and in the blink of an eye, it was a one-point lead 29-28 for the Bulldogs.

The Hornets then successfully attempted an onside kick, giving them possession of the ball, while down only one point with little over three and half minutes to play.

After successfully driving the ball to goal line territory, the Hornets found themselves down at the Bulldog one-yard line with only seconds to play.

On fourth and goal from the one-yard line, Calexico scrambled to the backfield and forced a quick pitch that was well-defended. The Hornets fell just one-yard short from the goal line, giving Calexico the win 29-28.