IMPERIAL — The Imperial High Tigers hosted the Monte Vista Monarchs Friday night, September 20, in a match-up that saw the Tigers come back from a double digit second half deficit to earn a 26-25 victory in front of their hometown crowd.
The Tigers were coming off a pair of close 37-34 losses over the last few weeks and were hoping to put those losses behind them and build some momentum going into next week’s bye.
Halfway through the first quarter, the Monarchs took control as a 16-yard strike from quarterback Ruben Silva to Monarch receiver Javier Leyva put the Tigers in 0-6 hole.
The Tigers returned the scoring favor as Tiger running back Jesus Padilla capped a 65-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown rush with just a little over a minute left in the first quarter. The point after try would be converted giving the Tigers a 7-6 lead.
Defenses held on both teams’ next offensive positions of the game, but a 66-yard power run by Monarch running back Isaiah Gardner gave the Monarchs a 7-14 lead as Gardner also converted the two-point attempt on a half-back five play.
The Monarchs added a 39-yard field goal to their point total, on a converted field goal after a Tiger four-and-out, giving the Monarchs a 7-17 lead going into the half.
Both teams exchanged possession in the next quarter before the Tigers cut the lead to three on a five play, 63-yard touchdown drive capped by a Joey Ramos 22-yard catch and run, to put the score at 14-17 with a little under six minutes to play in the third quarter.
The Monarch responded on their next possession behind a heavy rushing attack from seniors Isaiah Gardner and Jovani Olivas. Gardner extended the drive with a 33-yard rush on fourth down while Olivas capped the drive with a 13-yard sprint to the end zone. A quarterback sneak for the two-point conversion by senior Ruben Silva put the Monarchs up 14-25 with 2:37 left to play in the third quarter.
The Tigers struck quickly as junior quarterback Jordan Reed connected with senior receiver Joey Ramos three straight times for the last 30 yards of an eight-play, 53-yard drive. Reed found Ramos in the end zone on a five-yard pass with only 37 seconds to play in the third quarter.
Down only 20-25 going into the fourth, the Tiger defense providing key stops to keep the game within one score away from victory, including holding the Monarch offense to a missed field goal attempt on a drive that started deep in Tiger territory at the 18-yard line.
After the stop, the Tiger offense drove 80 yards in four plays behind the arm of Reed as a 40-yard gain on a pass to Ramos and then a 12-yard completion to Jacob Gray put the Tigers in scoring position. From there, Reed found junior wide receiver Brenton Adams for a 20-yard touchdown score with 6:13 left to play in the game.
In the last six minutes of play, both teams had trouble holding on to ball possession as the Monarchs turned the ball over on a fumble during a kickoff then again on a pass interception by Joey Ramos on Tiger defensive duties. The Tigers fumbled on a hand off with two minutes left to play, giving the Monarchs a late slight glimmer of hope, but a Ryan Bonillas open-field tackle on fourth down sealed the game, giving the Tigers a 26-25 hard fought victory.
“I am extremely proud of my players and coaching staff for the slight adjustments made at half time and executing those adjustments,” said Tiger head coach Kerry Legarra, as the Tigers held the Monarchs to just eight, second-half points.
“It’s finally nice to win a close one,” he added noting the Tigers' three losses were by less than seven points, and two were three-point losses to Gila Ridge and Valley Center.
Jordan Reed threw for 179 yards on 17 completions in 26 attempts and three touchdowns. Joey Ramos added nine receptions with 112 yards and two touchdowns as well as a defensive interception.
Up next, the Tigers will receive a bye before heading to Warne field in Brawley to take on the Brawley Wildcats in their IVL opening match-up October 4th.