BRAWLEY — Friday Nights Lights season entered week 3 on a rare Thursday evening at Warner Field for the first home game of the Brawley Wildcat’s football team. They hosted the Indio Rajahs. Hitting a home run on the first swing at bat, the Wildcats scored in a seven-second scoring drive early in the game.
The Rajah’s struck back with the aid of three crucial penalties that extended their possession thrice to eventually knot up the score at 7-7. The Wildcats would not allow history to repeat itself two weeks ago from Week 1 in Yuma. Brawley scored the next 36 points for a 43-7 victory to even their record to 1-1 with eight games remaining.
The Rajah’s had early success with an opening first-down drive, but that was all a stingy Wildcat defense would allow. In fact, the 'Cats only allowed 90 yards of total offense the entire game. After a short punt and return, Brawley began their first drive at their 47-yard line.
A Rajah penalty of five yards moved the ball to the 48 on Indio’s side of midfield. Blake Krigbaum (five carries for 52 yards and one touchdown) quickly cashed in 48 yards and convert it to the first points of the game. Xavier Pereyda added the point-after-kick and successfully delivered on all five of his attempts for a perfect night of kicking. With 9:01 showing on the first quarter scoreboard, the Wildcats led 7-0.
The Indio offense tied the game on their next drive and were aided on several penalty mistakes by the Wildcat defense and special teams. The first one occurred and prevented a quick change of possession. During an Indio punt, a swarm of Brawley special team players ran into the kicker for a first down that extended the Rajah drive. This propelled the offense to move the ball to the Wildcat side of the field. On a fourth down play and too close to punt but also too far to attempt a field goal, the Rajahs were rewarded with a pass attempt on a pass interference penalty and again extended the drive. A third penalty, an obvious personal foul, placed the ball inside the Brawley five-yard-line and the Rajahs tied the game. Indio’s leading rusher Victor Hilario (19 carries for 61 yards and one touchdown) had the score 7-7 with a minute left in the first quarter.
The Wildcats took more plays than on their first drive to regain the lead. Brawley held onto the lead until the final seconds ticked off the clock.
The games’ leading rusher Damian Reyes (13 carries for 124 yards and three touchdowns) was the quick strike on this touchdown with all 61 yards on the scoring drive. A 41-yard run capped off the offensive explosion and they led again 14-7 before the quarter ended.
Defensive units from both teams tightened up for the next quarter and neither allowed the other team to score. The Indio Rajahs were keeping up with the Wildcats in the closest game between the two teams since the last Indio victory many years ago.
The second half was a different game after adjustments by the Brawley coaching staff proved positive. Brawley received the second half kickoff but didn’t repeat any of the Gila Ridge turnover mistakes as it had in Yuma. The Damian Express was involved in five plays.
Unfortunately, one huge play negated a long pass from Ethan Gutierrez to Reyes. The big play had the ball at the Indio five-yard line. The 62-yard drive ended with a nine-yard run and the second of three Reyes touchdowns that increased the lead to 21-7.
The defensive adjustments made during halftime allowed the defense to prevent any more first downs by the Indio Rajahs for the rest of the game. Indio was gifted two first downs by way of penalties and one prevented an interception/turnover of the ball.
The Wildcat offense once again had the ball at the Indio 44-yard line following a short punt. A loss of six yards pushed it back to midfield, but a Gutierrez to Krigbaum 27-yard pass cut the distance in half to the next score. Damian once again was utilized on the next three plays that ended on a five-yard run for the Reyes “hat trick” (A hat trick in hockey is scoring three goals). Pereyda added the point-after-kick and the Wildcats were getting more comfortable with a 28-7 lead and 1:42 left in the third quarter.
With great field position at the Indio 46-yard-line, the Wildcat offense struck six plays later and provided a highlight that hadn’t been seen by any Wildcat fan, making for a historic sporting event. A three-yard touchdown was scored by starting “freshman” Ethan Gutierrez for his first rushing score of the season. The lead increased to 35-7 but would not be the last for the evening.
After another defensive stance and turn over on downs, the Wildcats turned it over to the backup players. Quarterback Nathan May allowed Chandler Self to truck the ball for some football real estate with 26 yards on three carries and one touchdown. A two-point conversion run was successful when a mishandling of the snap was taken for an extra two points by Nathan Torrez. The 43-7 lead would hold until the game ended.
Due to a running clock, the scoreboard quickly counted down the remainder of the time. By rule, after a 35-point lead in the second half and/or agreement of both coaches, the clock does not stop except for time outs.
The Brawley Wildcats will have two more consecutive trips to Yuma in the next couple of weeks before returning September 27 to host the Kofa Kings. Next Friday, September 13, the Wildcats will be playing Catholic High School to face Yuma's top team.