EL CENTRO — The 2021 Bell Game ended with the wild-side student section storming Cal Jones Field to the tune of a 34-21 Brawley victory as the Wildcats’ four-year slump in ‘The Classic’ ended Friday, Oct. 29.
Brawley was deferred first possession and wasted no time in finding an offensive rhythm.
A barreling ground-and-pound attack off the legs of Isaiah Young saw the chains move 49 yards into the Central red zone six plays into the contest. The Wildcats capped off their opening possession with a handoff to Young who bruised in six from 9 yards out. Brawley struck first up 7-0 at the 8:13 mark of the first quarter.
The Wildcat lead came with a scare as it looked like an early night would be called for Young, after nearly being unable to make it to the sideline with an awkward landing in the first quarter.
The Wildcats controlled the tempo for the majority of the opening period until the mighty, mighty Spartans pounced on a pic when Joel Gonzales-Valdez jumped a route near the sidelines.
Central cashed in on the turnover as Sergio Garcia landed a 42-yard diving catch near the Brawley goal line. Charlie Sullivan punched in a 4-yard rushing score which evened up the game at 7-7 after the made extra point.
As the Wildcats moved to strike back near the end of the second quarter, Gonzales-Valdez recovered a fumble for the Spartans, which halted the Brawley go-ahead threat.
Once again, Central took advantage of an opportune turnover as Garcia bullied in a reception from the 4-yard line, then extended the ball across the pylon for six. The Spartans took a 13-7 lead into the locker room at halftime.
“I never thought about injuries or being down at the half. All that was on my mind was getting (back) on that field and doing everything possible to bring home that bell,” said Young.
The Wildcat defense forced a statement three-and-out to commence the second half as Central punted on their first offensive drive of the third quarter.
Brawley bled the clock on their ensuing drive, which elapsed roughly 8 minutes and ended on another Young goal line clincher across pay-dirt. The Wildcats went ahead 14-13 after a successful PAT.
An inability to execute on third down coupled with short punts hindered the Spartans’ field possession as Brawley continuously had short fields.
Early in the fourth quarter Young slipped through the cracks and broke loose for a 36-yard TD scamper which put the Wildcats up 21-14 after the made point after.
Now needing a touchdown and two-point conversion to tie, a sense of urgency set in on the Central home side.
Brawley stopped the Spartans once again and regained possession with just under 4 minutes to go in the game.
Unwilling to take any chances, Young took the ensuing hand-off, 40-yard downtown which gave B-town a 28-14 lead into the stretch.
Central utilized a relentless passing arsenal which brought the game back to within one score when Sullivan was on the receiving end of a TD rout-route reception. The Spartans scored the two-point conversion as the margin closed to 28-21 Brawley with 1:20 left to play.
Central attempted an onside kick but the Wildcats’ Gilbert Corrales crept up and fielded the bouncer deep into Spartan territory.
Ethan Gutierrez finished off the Spartans with 5 seconds to go when he took a late-game call into his own hands and danced into the promised land from the 15-yard line.
The final whistle of the 78th rendition of the Central versus Brawley Bell Game blew on a 34-21 Wildcat victory.
“Our kids want to fight for our community because that’s where our kids are from,” said Brawley head coach Jon Self. “And we wanted to play hard-nosed defense and high tempo offense. We were a little excited in the first half. In the second half we regained our composure and came back after them again. That’s why we’re able to win, because our kids are from Brawley and the community is behind us.”
Top scoring honors went to Young who logged four touchdowns.
“It’s so special to be out there with my dad every week. We made memories that we will never forget. Brawley tradition is strong, and I’m proud to be part of the legacy that my father and so many others before us established,” said Young of the times he has spent on the sidelines with this squad and his father.
Wildcat alumni and BUHS assistant coach Brandin Young commented on seeing his son excel on the gridiron.
“I couldn’t be more proud of him,” said Brandin Young. “He showed the heart of a champion, he played well all night but when we needed to finish strong, he took things to another level. All the boys did a great job to get the W in the end. I’m full of pride today. Pride in our town, in our coaching staff, and in each player on our team for bringing the bell home.”