By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN
VISALIA – Football teams don’t discriminate when it comes to winning. They’ll take any kind of victory they can get. And for Golden West (9-2), last Friday night’s 49-34 Division IV quarterfinal victory was much harder than it needed to be, but they’ll sail off into the semifinals this Friday just the same.
Golden West had an uncharacteristic four turnovers on the night, which gave the Roosevelt Roughriders (8-4) opportunities to get back in the game. In fact, Roosevelt came within two points of tying it up in the third quarter.
While Golden West started off by opening a 15-0 lead half way through the second quarter, the remainder of the game became a tit-for-tat scoring battle. With 6:57 left in the first half, the high flying Roughrider offense started to vertically test the Blazers’ defense. Roosevelt got their first touchdown on an 80-yard catch and run when Roosevelt quarterback Jordan De La Rosa and wide receiver Jesus Romero found a hole in the secondary. Golden West responded two minutes later with a Ben Davis touchdown run. But Roosevelt responded with 58 seconds left when De La Rosa connected with wide receiver Damian Ross in the end zone.
Ross had to jump high over Blazer cornerback Raul Cardenas for the ball. They both seemed to come down with it but referees gave possession to Roosevelt for the touchdown. The score shined a light on the condition of the Blazer secondary which has been a revolving door of personnel lately. On Friday, key cornerback Ian Kelly was injured which forced Cardenas into the position. Also, quarterback Peyton Allen turned in a solid performance at safety playing opposite Tyson Landry who is the team’s backup quarterback.
“Our secondary didn’t play that bad. Payton did good at safety. He’s a very smart football player,” said head coach Paul Preheim.
Despite letting up the late Roosevelt touchdown, Golden West charged down the field and capped off their 36-second drive with a deep scoring connection between Allen and wide receiver Josiah Washington with 22 seconds left.
Roosevelt came out of the half down 29-14 but got the ball to start. But it wasn’t long before the Golden West defense made a big play. Davis, playing defensive back, tracked down a deep arching ball from De La Rosa and jumped in front of it at the last second to take the interception the other way. Just a hand full of plays later Gonzalo Rodriguez who had 168 yards on the night plunged into the end zone for his second of three touchdowns on the night and gave his team a 36-14 lead. Although after the score the momentum in the game began to shift in the Roughrider’s direction.
With 7:56 left in the third quarter De La Rosa dropped a deep shot 30 yards over wide receiver Neo Keo’s shoulder for a touchdown, and the Blazer defense let up a two-point conversion to boot. Then with 3:51 left De La Rosa thread the needle to Ross who took the ball 28 yards for a touchdown and cut their deficit to 8 with the score 36-28. Roosevelt finished their three score run when the Blazers tried to capitalize on a potentially momentum swinging kickoff return that put them on the Roosevelt side of the field. On the next play Davis hit some open field and was headed for a touchdown. It was big gain for Davis who had 150 yards on the night. But unfortunately a Roughrider came up from behind and jarred the ball lose sending it tumbling through the back of the end zone for a touchback and change of possession.
The turnover let the air out of the stadium, and things only seemed to get worse when Roosevelt turned the opportunity into points as De La Rosa connected with Romero on a corner route that led to a touchdown. Allen roamed the secondary and made the attempt to swat the ball down. He even fully stretched out to deflect the pass but he came up just inches shy.
The turning point just after the touchdown was when the Blazers thwarted the game tying two-point conversion attempt that preserved their lead 36-34.
Normally critical offensive coordinator Stan Kanawyer turned into the voice of inspiration for the Blazers as he welcomed the team onto the sideline.
“Hey! What’s wrong with you guys, this is what you play for. Lets go out and win this thing,” Kanawyer said.
The uplifting remarks seemed to resonate. Before the close of the quarter Allen found Washington for their second touchdowns connections on the night. Washington run his route between the linebackers and secondary and Allen put the ball perfectly in front of him. Washington took no time to turn up field and score, giving him a 69-yard touchdown. The score also gave his team a 43-34 advantage heading into the final quarter.
But Kanawyer’s words seemed to reach into the helmets of the defense as well. When Roosevelt started the fourth quarter with the ball and started to find their late game groove, Golden West linebacker Josh Summers crashed through the line on a third down blitz and sacked De La Rosa for a 10-yard loss which forced them to punt. The sack was only one of his 10 solo tackles on the night.
On the very next play Golden West’s Christian Ortiz exploited some space in the Roosevelt defense and rumbled 48 yards down to the Roughriders’ 18 yard line. From there the Blazers gave Rodriguez a steady dose of carries. Eventually he picked his way through the line until he added the game’s last score and eventual 49-34 final.
Golden West will take on another high flying aerial attack in Kerman this Friday, the Division IV semifinals. Kerman defeated Monache in a close 34-39 victory last Friday. The game is slated for 7 p.m. at Groppetti Automotive Community Stadium.