Exeter went back and forth with Dinuba for most of the first half before losing 58-21.
By Jermaine Johnson II @Jerm_10
EXETER – Last Friday Exeter hosted the Dinuba Emperors in a game that could have potentially secured the Monarchs a playoff spot. The two teams were playing each other closely through the second quarter before Exeter made some costly mistakes that put them in a quick hole.
The Emperors scored 16 unanswered points in the last four minutes of the first and the Monarchs could not recover from that deficit.
The teams were tied at 21 with about seven minutes to go in the second quarter. Dinuba then scored on a connection via senior Josh Magana and junior Bryan Ruiz. The Monarchs were driving down the field in an attempt to respond but they lost the ball on a fumble. The Emperors immediately responded with a long 50-yard touchdown pass to senior Gabriel Moreno to go up 35-21.
Exeter’s offense couldn’t respond but the defense was able to come up with a big interception to prevent Dinuba’s offense from scoring before the half ended. They may have prevented the touchdown, but the interception had them backed up at their own 5-yard line. They tried to throw the ball to prevent a ball carrier getting tackled for a safety, but quarterback Jake Rowlett was sacked in his own end zone for a safety. According to Exeter head coach Keirsten Lamb, those big plays to end the half deflated his team.
Dinuba got the ball to start the second half, and put together a strong drive that resulted in seven more points. Exeter’s offense couldn’t respond so they had to punt the ball away. The Emperors then returned the punt 70 yards for a touchdown with a little under three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
“We still felt like we had a chance [heading into the second], but that punt return broke our back,” Lamb said.
That return would be Dinuba’s last points of the game. Exeter scored on an eight-yard run by Rowlett and those would be the last points of the game.
“We felt like we had a good opportunity through the first quarter and a half, we were right there with them but then we had a few miscues that they converted on,” said Lamb. “Our kids know that we can play with any team if we cut down on our mistakes.”
Both teams got out to a strong start to the game as the game was tied at 14 after the first quarter. Dinuba scored the first seven points of the game, then the Monarchs responded with a double pass from Teneil Nickols to Adrian White that went nearly 80 yards for the end zone. Magana responded for the Emperors with a 61-yard scramble into the end zone. He provided much of the offense for Dinuba as he ended with 370 combined passing and rushing yards to go along with five touchdowns. Not too long after that, Exeter sophomore scored on a three-yard run into the end zone with about four minutes to go in the first.
“We have yet to put a full four quarters of football together,” Lamb said. “We have found ways to shoot ourselves in the foot when we have good things going. We have to be able to finish.”
The Monarchs are now in win-or-go-home mode as they need to win their final game against Central Valley Christian in order to make the playoffs. CVC is coming off a 35-3 loss against a Selma team that hung 58 points on Exeter two weeks ago. The Cavaliers will travel to Monarch Stadium on Friday, Nov. 1 at 7:30 p.m.