Yuma Criminals shackle Bulldogs in season opener

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Andy Rojas of the Calexico Bulldogs breaks away for a score against the Yuma Criminals Friday night at Calexico High School.

CALEXICO – The Calexico Bulldog Varsity football team hosted the Yuma High School Criminals Friday at its newly renovated 4,000-seat Willie Ward Stadium that features an all-weather eight-lane track among other amenities. A new season and opening night at home brought a sense of pride and optimism to the Bulldog hopefuls on a hot, humid Friday evening.

But the opening quarter was riddled with penalties and mental mistakes on both sides, putting the coaches’ patience and resolve to the test. It would be well into the second quarter with 3:16 left in the half before the Bulldogs’ Josh Marin threw a touchdown pass to Andy Rojas for a 50-yard score.

It was one of two touchdown passes from Marin during the night, but Calexico ended up with only six points after a missed extra point attempt.

The Criminals refused to go into the locker room at halftime without scoring themselves. On the ensuing series after Calexico’s scoring drive, the Criminals started moving the ball down field on the back of Yuma’s Isaac Ignacio who scrambled on downs and finally fired a pass down the seam to put the Criminals on the board just before the half. They capped that touchdown with a point after touchdown, putting the Criminals ahead by one at the half, 7-6.

It was evident at halftime the Criminals were going to try to take the running game away from the Bulldogs by sticking to a base defense. Calexico relied heavily on its time outs in both halves of the game, and really did not establish itself going into the second half.

Willis Ward Field was the highlight of the pre-game and at halftime. Ward Field has been home to Bulldog football for the past 60 years and was celebrated with pomp and circumstance accordingly, but fans of the Calexico Bulldogs were hoping their football team could close the festivities with a win.

Calexico’s Andy Rojas took the opening kickoff after halftime and ran it back to the 40, but they lost five yards in the play, continuing the errors for Calexico.

In the second half, the Bulldogs rotated quarterbacks from Marin to George Villalobos. Villalobos is known for being more of a scrambling/running type than a passing threat, but Coach John Tyree established his rotation earlier, and stuck to it throughout the game.

In the third quarter, with just over three minutes left, the Bulldogs scored on another touchdown pass. This score came from within the Yuma 20-yard line, putting Calexico up 12-7, but after failing to convert on a 2-point conversion, the game’s outcome becoming suspect with the Criminals still within a score of taking the lead.

The fourth quarter saw Calexico and Yuma exchanging moments of frustration and stalemates, highlighted with fumbles and passes thrown in error.

The Bulldog defense stiffened, and at times gave Calexico opportunities and a pulse throughout the game.

The Criminals mounted enough offense to score once more, and take the lead after a successful PAT, giving the Criminals the lead at 14-12, and the eventual final score.

The Bulldog defense stripped the ball in the final moments of the game, but Calexico succumbed to the evenings’ dehydrating conditions. Apparent confusion on roster assignments, miscommunication amongst personnel and mismanagement of the clock dashed any attempt at coming back.

Next week, the Bulldogs host the Vincent Memorial Scots.