Calexico survives tough test from Salvatierra

CALEXICO RUNNING BACK Christopher Gonzalez drags Salvatierra defenders on his way to a big run.

CALEXICO — It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t pretty. But in the end, the Calexico Bulldogs were able to stop Instituto Salvatierra on three separate occasions in the fourth quarter to hold on and win 14-7 Friday night, August 30, at Ward Field in Calexico.

For a low-scoring affair, both teams were having much success moving the ball up and down the field. The problem was finishing those drives. Calexico fumbled the ball four times while in Salvatierra territory, and Salvatierra turned it over on downs as many times.

Calexico head coach John Tyree said that while he was proud of the way his team persevered to come away with the win, he understood that the result could easily have gone the other way.  

“We played really hard all the way,” said Tyree. “We didn’t play the same caliber of an opponent like last week, but Salvatierra is a tough group and were coached really well.”

In just his fourth season as the head man in Calexico, Tyree has established a culture he hopes will help improve the image of Calexico football throughout the Valley, rather than continue to be an IVL cellar dweller.

“The difference tonight is that we played hard the entire game,” said Tyree. “If we play hard for 60 minutes, we’re gonna be a tough team to beat.”

Calexico found most of their success on the ground. With new quarterback Cesar Luna under center, the Bulldogs’ offense relied heavily on their backfield tandem of seniors Jorge Burgos and Christopher Gonzalez. Together, they accounted for 154 yards through the ground. Gonzalez said that a close victory, like the one they had Friday, will help his team late in games the rest of the season.

“It was great performance by our team,” said Gonzalez. “Our defense came up big; they were able to get some turnovers and give us a chance to score.”

But scoring opportunities were few and fleeting for the Bulldogs as they fumbled the ball four times throughout the game, three of which were recovered by Salvatierra.

After a scoreless first half, the deadlock was finally broken when Jorge Burgos rushed for a 17-yard score and a successful two-point conversion. Salvatierra would not go away quietly and scored a touchdown at the end of the third quarter to bring their deficit down to one.

Salvatierra had multiple opportunities to take the lead in the fourth; most notably a 30-yard missed field goal that went wide right.

The teams went back and forth trading possessions and flipping field position for most of the quarter before Calexico was able to break through with a six-yard TD score by Luna, giving the Bulldogs a 14-7 advantage. Salvatierra had the opportunity to tie the game and send it to overtime. They would march downfield to the Calexico 10 before a holding penalty and sack by the Calexico defense would seal the game for the Bulldogs … or so we thought.

On the ensuing drive, Calexico turned the ball over once again and give Salvatierra another chance at midfield with 1:38 remaining. Once again, the Calexico defense was called upon for one final stop and they answered the call; stopping Salvatierra on fourth and goal and finally were able to run out the clock.

“This was a great game for us,” said senior fullback Diego Zatarain. “We showed a lot of fight, but we know that we have a lot to improve on.”

Calexico (1-1) will stay home to take on their in-town rival, the Vincent Memorial Scots this Friday, September 6. The Bulldogs fell to the Scots last season in devastating fashion, losing 6-0.

“We know that we can’t take them lightly, we know that they are a good team. We just have to go out and play the way we know how and we’ll end up beating them,” said Zatarain.

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