CALEXICO — The Calexico Bulldogs found a way to win Friday night, but it didn’t come without a loss. They used their size and strength advantage all night to pull away from a depleted Calipatria Hornets squad 36-6 at Ward Field in Calexico.
Both teams came into the week looking for redemption following crushing defeats last weekend. The Hornets were back on the road following their 40-0 blowout loss at the hands of the Yuma Criminals. The Bulldogs continued their long five-game home stretch after falling to their in-town rival, Vincent Memorial 41-22.
Both teams traded possessions early on in the first quarter before the game would drastically turn on its head. On a third and six, Calexico quarterback Cesar Luna turned upfield on a designed keeper and was rolled up by Calipatria defenders as he closed in on the sideline. It was apparent that he was seriously injured in the play and needed assistance to get off the field. It was up to Haveck Morales, who is third on the Bulldogs’ depth chart, to lead them to victory.
Calipatria seized the opportunity against a weakened Bulldog defense as quarterback Kalin Sotelo found senior wide receiver Hugo Cervantes on a 41-yard connection, all the way to the Bulldogs 15. The drive had a disappointing ending as the Hornets fumbled the ball on second and goal, giving the ball right back to Calexico.
Calexico took take the ball, with their new quarterback under center, all the way back to midfield where they faced fourth and one. After calling a timeout, Morales faked the hand off to the left side, giving the ball to running back Javier Contreras, who took it 50 yards down the sideline for the first score of the game.
Calexico scored once more on yet another 50-yard TD rush by Diego Zatarain, giving the Bulldogs a 14-0 lead going into the break.
At halftime, Calexico head coach said that Luna was ruled out of the game, essentially making their offense one dimensional.
“[Morales] didn’t really know the offense that well, so we had to install something at halftime,” said Calexico head coach John Tyree. But that was no problem for senior fullback Diego Zatarain.
Zatarain single-handedly put the Bulldogs on his back as he rushed for 136 yards and the ground and two touchdowns on just eight carries.
“My role became tougher because I had to tell the quarterback what to do,” said Zatarain. “But we were able to make adjustments at halftime and came out strong in the second half.”
Once the second half began, Calexico imposed their will on a tired Hornets defense. Jose Contreras had 112 yards rushing to go along with his two rushing scores. In all, the Bulldogs rushed for 268 yards on the ground to carry their newly installed QB.
“Our running backs and linemen played really well tonight and allowed me to have success,” said Morales.
Offensively, the Hornets saw the bulk of the success on three deep bombs between QB Kalin Sotelo and WR Hugo Cervantes. Cervantes ended the game with 110 yards receiving on just three receptions.
Calipatria, in the midst of a tumultuous season, found the end zone until the waning moments of the game when Jonathan Valenzuela plunged in on a one-yard fullback dive as time expired.
“We keep improving every week,” said Calipatria head coach Keith Smith. “I think we found another fullback tonight in Jonathan Valenzuela. [Our] boys have heart; they’re not gong to give up and they’re gonna keep working hard every week. They going to keep getting better as the season goes along.”
The Hornets return home after this two-game road trip, hosting Desert Christian Academy this Friday, September 20. The Conquistadors were blown out this week 53-0 by the Vincent Memorial Scots. The Bulldogs have their much need bye week coming up before returning to Ward Field to take on the Holtville Vikings September 27.
“We’re struggling [with our health] right now, but two weeks off will give us a chance to get repaired and maybe we’ll have everyone back against Holtville,” said Tyree.