BRAWLEY – The Brawley Union Wildcat football squad hosted the Imperial High Tigers this past Friday night at Warne Field in a rivalry between two young teams battling for playoff contention and momentum in IVL going into next year.
For the last six years, the home team of this yearly IVL matchup has been the team leaving with the loss. The Wildcats came out fired up, putting up 20 straight points in the first half, in hopes of preventing that streak from continuing. The Tigers dug deep and responded, which gave way to an exciting finish, but it fell short as the Wildcats took the victory at home, 27-20.
The night began with a Wildcat blitz attack as drives of 60 and 57 yards were capped by touchdown passes from senior quarterback Ethan Torres to Casey Kline. The first was a 19-yard touchdown pass to put the Wildcats up 7. The second, a 31-yard strike giving the Wildcats a 14-point lead in the first quarter.
As the defense held early for the Wildcats, the offense continued rolling. After an Imperial fumble was recovered by Wildcat defender Jonathan Gonzalez at the Wildcats’ 46, Torrez led the Wildcats on a 54-yard, seven-play touchdown drive, topped by a ten yard touchdown rush by junior running back Michael Moreno.
Down 20-0, the Tigers responded on their next possession driving 65 yards on eight plays, scoring a 16-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Joseph Tarango to Santiago De La Torre.
After an exchange of possessions, the Wildcats found the end zone once more before the half on a Michael Moreno six-yard touchdown rush. The drive was only two plays as the perfectly called quarterback-keeper saw Ethan Torrez go 77 yards and set up Moreno’s touchdown rush from the six-yard line.
Down 27-7, the Tigers came out fighting in the third quarter. A fumble by the Wildcats deep in their own territory was recovered by Mike Reyes and then converted into seven points by the Tigers on the very next play as senior Brandon Hueso took a Tarango handoff for a 23-yard touchdown, cutting the Wildcat lead to 27-14.
After an exchange of possessions, Reyes again was involved in a Wildcat turnover, recovering another fumble, this one near midfield, giving the Tigers favorable field position again.
The drive was highlighted by a 27-yard pass to Sergio Serrano and capped by an 11-yard touchdown rush by Brandon Hueso, again inching the Tigers closer to the Wildcat lead of 27-20 with a minute left in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, both teams’ defenses staggered each other and a late drive by the Tigers ended at their own 34-yard line as a Hail Mary heave hit the ground giving the Wildcats a turnover on downs and the 27-20 victory.
“Imperial is a good ball team. You’ve got to respect them because they play well, and we just stepped up when we had too,” said Brawley Head Coach Jon Self, post game.
On the night, Michael Moreno finished with 156 yards on 32 carries and two touchdowns. Ethan Torrez finished the night with eight rushes for 101 yards while completing five of eight passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns.
For the Tigers, Brandon Hueso rushed for 95 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns while Joseph Tarango threw for 137 yards and a touchdown on 10 completions and 20 attempts.
Up next for the Tigers will be Palo Verde Valley High next Friday at home to cap off the regular season.
The Wildcats will be at Centrals’ Cal Jones Stadium in the annual Bell Game going up with the 2017 surprising Spartans.
“The Bell Game is going to be a big game between us. Central is playing really well and we look forward to playing them,” said Self, on looking toward the Bell Game.
Ernie Ramos contributed to the article.