Scrappy Tigers fight to the end, almost cause an upset

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IMPERIAL – The Imperial Tigers football squad hosted the Yuma Catholic Shamrocks in their 2017 home opener after posting an impressive 55-14 victory over the Cibola Raiders last week, and hoped to continue the momentum.

The Shamrocks came into the contest 1-0, posting a close 27-24 victory over Arizona’s St. Mary’s High School.

The game began with a Yuma Catholic four play, 80-yard touchdown drive highlighted by a 56-yard pass from Gage Reese to John Henderson on the first play. From there, three straight running plays from Eun Chavez and the Shamrocks produced a quick 7-0 lead, less than two minutes into the game.

The Tigers struck later in the quarter after a mishandled Shamrock snap was recovered by Tigers defensive tackle Andres Duarte at the Shamrocks’ 6-yard line. Three two-yard rushes from Brandon Hueso added to the six needed yards, and the score was tied at 7-7 late in the first quarter.

Yuma Catholic regained the lead seconds later when a surprising counter-reverse call saw Yohan Stokes move the ball for a 65-yard touchdown run just before the end of the first quarter.

On the Tigers’ next possession, they ran the field 75 yards in ten plays, including a fake punt first down conversion by Santiago De La Torre. Junior quarterback Wyatt Rodriguez hit De La Torre for an eight yard touchdown strike to cap the drive.

The Shamrocks aided their fight over the Tigers as Shamrocks running back Zack Hunter converted a third down short yardage carry for a 64-yard touchdown scamper. The Shamrocks muffed the extra point attempt putting them up 20-14 going into the half.

The second half began as both teams traded three-and-outs. The Tigers found a way to strike early with a 48-yard drive led by a 22-yard scamper by sophomore Joey Ramos. A Rodriguez to De La Torre connection, this one for a six-yard touchdown, would tie the score as the Tigers again missed the PAT attempt.

From there though, the Shamrocks dominated the rest of the third quarter with Ean Chavez slicing through the defense to score both touchdowns on drives consisting mostly of Chavez rushes.

The first drive was a short one of 33 yards after a Henderson return to the Tigers’ 33. Chavez took three handoffs to go the 33 yards for the touchdown. On their following drive, the Shamrocks handed the ball to Chavez six times, including a fourth and short conversion, and on the sixth handoff, Chavez landed in the end zone on an eight-yard touchdown rush.

The Tigers found themselves down 20-34 going in the fourth quarter, but responded big late in the quarter. With just under four minutes, a 48-yard strike from Rodriguez to Sergio Serrano got the Tigers to within a touchdown. Down 26-34, the Tigers took over on a Nathan Hart interception deep in Shamrock territory with 2:46 left to play in the game. Rodriguez again found De La Torre for a 30-yard touchdown catch and run, and then again on a jump ball for the 2-point conversion to tie the game.

But in the end, it was possibly a tied score too soon, as the Shamrocks still had two minutes left to drive the ball and score. After returning the ball to the Tigers’ 45-yard line, the Shamrocks drove the ball deep into Tiger territory before Shamrock kicker, Fabian Ramirez, booted in a 25-yard kick to give the Shamrocks a hard-fought 37-34 victory.

“The kids showed a lot of class and character. We’ve got to tackle better, but besides that, we didn’t quit and those are things we can work with,” said Tigers Head Coach Kerry Legarra.

“We’ve gotta make everyday as important as the day before, and then make it even more important the night that we play,” Legarra said.