LAKESIDE, CA – The Division II semifinal playoff between the Brawley Wildcats and top ranked El Capitan Vaqueroâ€™s was only a few points off the predicted score of 38-7 as the Wildcats ended their season with a loss, 34-7. If history repeats itself, the last time Brawley lost this deep in the playoffs, the opposing team (then Madison 2012) went on to win both the San Diego CIF Championship and the State Championship as well.
The Brawley Wildcats kept it close in the beginning but did not capitalize on crucial turnovers early in the game, which were vital for any hope of an upset.
The Wildcats received the opening kickoff that started on their 20-yard line. After a couple of first downs on tough runs by Andrew Ortiz (29 -103 yards) Brawley was forced to punt. El Capitan began their first drive at their 34-yard line.
In only the third play of their drive, the Vaqueros quickly realized why the Wildcats defense has given up less than 100 points this season. On a third and five, Nathan Suits picked off his seventh interception of the season to shut down drive number one. Blake Zeleny had a fumbled recovery in El Capitan’s second drive.
Brawleyâ€™s offense could not take advantage of the take away on their next drive as they went three and out (three plays then punt) for the next four drives. The Vaquero defense held the Wildcats to 69 yards rushing in the first half. They ended the game with 175 yards rushing total on 52 carries.
Vaquero QB Brad Cagle had a difficult time getting into rhythm early on as errant passes were evident from the earlier interception and a few incompletions. Once he zeroed in on his targets, it made for a long evening for the Wildcats. Completing 15 of 21 passes for 252 yards with TDâ€™s of 11, 46, 43, and 36 yards was enough to score 34 unanswered points by El Capitan. They held a 21-0 lead at the halfway point.
Too much Vaquero offense and their defensive brick wall slowed down the potent Brawley running game, giving virtually no chance of a Wildcat upset on Black Friday.
Brawleyâ€™s lone score occurred on a drive that began on their 21-yard line with 6:13 left in the game. The eleven-play drive consisted of runs by Senior QB Ross Rubio, 16 carries for 61 yards, and Andrew Ortiz. The drive was aided by two big penalties, one of which prevented a long 46-yard TD pass to Moises Lazos, Refs called pass interference at the one-yard line. On first and goal at the five-yard line with the entire Vaquero defense honed in on Ortiz, Ross Rubio scampered untouched into the end zone to prevent the shut out.
El Capitan is the front-runner to represent Southern California in the California Bowls in mid-December. They have managed an impressive record of 12-0 with their biggest win coming against powerhouse Helix on the last game of the regular season. They have become one of the best teams in San Diego CIF Section in 2014 and would be a challenge to any of the Open Division teams including the private schools.
The Wildcats end the season with a 10-2 record where a ten game winning streak was sandwiched by two losses. This was done with a team that suffered crucial injuries to key players. The adversity that the 2014 team faced was huge, yet somehow they managed to come out on top, week in and week out. Many players will hopefully be returning next year, as this was a team comprised of many sophomores and juniors. I will have a complete 2014 Season Wrap for this yearâ€™s Wildcat football season.
***A major injury to Junior standout Nathan Montalvo occurred in the middle of the fourth quarter. His leg injury was severe so please keep him and his family in your thoughts and prayers.Â[envira-gallery id=”46090″]