PALO VERDE – Â Halloween evening in Blythe had a breezy air that hinted cooler days in the near future, but no weatherman predicted the gusts of wind created by the Brawley Wildcats’ run game that compiled 543 yards on 45 rushes. Two Wildcat running backs logged over 200 yards, Andrew Ortizâ€™s second such accomplishment in as many weeks.
Ortiz amassed 204 yards on 22 carries for the game, but Sophomore Austyn Gutierrez snuck in 272 yards of his own on only 11 carries, as the Palo Verde Yellow Jackets keyed on Ortiz most of the night. Both backs had three touchdowns each as the Brawley Wildcats improved their record to 8-1 for the year with a convincing 41-6 victory.
Four male adults walked onto the field Â before the game, dressed as referees, but neither side quite knew if they were truly the officials. One in particular, probably in the spirit of the holiday, walked into Scott Stadium with â€œStevie Wonderâ€ black sunglasses and a long brown walking cane. Whether he was mocking both Wildcatâ€™s and Yellow Jacketâ€™s fans, and coaches, or poking fun at referees will remain a mystery. If I hadnâ€™t seen it with my own 20/20 vision I would not have believed this story to be true.
The very first play had the referee throwing the yellow hanky and calling an offsetting penalty on two players. The penalty was for Unsportsmanlike Conduct that had all those present baffled and asking, â€œWhy?â€
Palo Verde possessed the ball, but a quick three and out had them punting, giving the Wildcats their first possession. Only 30 seconds in, the Wildcats had the ball on their 32-yard line. Using a thirteen-play drive, the Wildcats drew first blood (Halloween remember) with 4:20 left in the first. Andrew Ortiz carried eight times on the drive with the last one being a two-yard plunge. 7-0 Brawley.
The Yellow Jackets repeated their first drive, ending with a punt to Brawley, but the kick was mishandled and Palo Verde continued at the Brawley 35-yard line. Unfortunately for them, a loss of one yard gave the ball to Brawley four plays later after a great defensive stand. Both teams exchanged punts into the second quarter and Brawley found themselves again on their 35-yard line.
It only took eleven seconds for Brawleyâ€™s next scoring drive. The big play came on a 65-yard sprint around the corner by Austyn Gutierrez for his first of three TDâ€™s. Celis kick was good to make it 14-0 with 7:59 left in the first half.
Palo Verde moved the ball well their next drive from the 35-yard line across midfield to the Wildcat 34. They would not achieve the yards needed for a first down and turned the ball over to the Wildcats. Six plays later Ortiz was on a 40 yard TD run with 4:59 left in the half. The PAT was good for a 21-0 lead that remained until the half ended.
Opening up the second half, the rested Wildcats only needed a five-play drive to score. A highlight was Nico Aguirreâ€™s 29-yard run. He had returned to action against Imperial last week. Austyn Gutierrez finished the drive off with a 29-yard run of his own into the end zone. With 9:20 into the third quarter the Wildcats lead was now 28-0.
Again, a Palo Verde three and out gave the Wildcats possession on their own 22-yard line. Running at will on eight plays, Andrew Ortiz ran for a touchdown of 29 yards. 4:00 remained in the third and the Wildcatâ€™s lead increased to 35-0.
The lone scoring for Palo Verde came on a big, ten-play drive that included a huge kickoff return of 49 yards and two major penalties. One was a 15-yard defensive personal foul, and the other, a defensive holding from 1st and goal at the Brawley eight-yard line. What made the second penalty strange was they marked half the distance to the goal line from the eight. â€œBlind manâ€™s Bluffâ€ referee placed the ball on the five for an automatic first down. Apparently in the new Common Core math, half of eight is five. After the comedy of errors, Palo Verde Yellow Jackets scored early in the fourth quarter on a two-yard run. A two-point conversion pass attempt was intercepted leaving the score at 35-6.
Brawleyâ€™s second-string offense was given the opportunity to show their stuff. A fresh set of linemen paved the way for an electrifying TD run by Austyn Gutierrez for 68 yards. Gutierrezâ€™s run gave him his second game with three TDâ€™s. Celis missed the PAT for the 41-6 score.
Austyn Gutierrez came within a horse-tackle penalty of hitting the 300 mark in rushing. Palo Verdeâ€™s next drive was interrupted by Wildcat Kevin Kastnerâ€™s second interception of the season giving Brawleyâ€™s second-string offense another set of downs. The first play, from their own 24-yard line, had Austyn Gutierrez in open field. He was caught from behind where the horse-tackle penalty occurred. Using the rim of the shoulder pad in the neck area during a tackle will get a yellow flag every time to prevent injuries. The Wildcats were able to reach the Palo Verde two-yard line, but decided to end the game in â€œVictory Formationâ€ as a show of good sportsmanship.
The 71st Annual Victory Bell game is Brawleyâ€™s next game. This game is a must win if the Wildcats want to be the IVL Champions outright without sharing the Title. If Central should pull off the upset, there would be a 3-way tie, if the Imperial Tigers win their last game against Palo Verde. A Tigerâ€™s loss and a Spartan win means a Title shared by Central and Brawley. Get your tickets early as they are already on sale at both schools for the November 7th matchup.