Tulare Western defeats Redwood 35-27 despite late comeback attempt
VISALIA – Going three weeks between games while missing two weeks of practice will have any team looking rusty, which was the case for the Redwood Rangers in their game last week against Tulare Western. They pulled it together in the end with a late comeback attempt, but the stampeding Mustang offense was too much to handle as they spoiled Redwood’s homecoming game.
The entire Redwood football team was forced to quarantine for two weeks due to COVID-19 protocols of the Visalia Unified School District. They weren’t able to practice and the game against Tulare Western was their first since losing their opener to Centennial on Aug. 20.
They faced a Mustang team that would have been a lot to handle on Redwood’s best day, as the Mustangs continue to find their stride under new head coach Derek Rosa. They’re now 2-1 under Rosa and their 28 first half points was the most they’ve scored in any full game this season. Their 35 points was almost as much as their combined points in their first two games of the season, and could have easily scored more if they would have continued to air the ball out in the second half.
Tulare Western boasted a 28-7 lead coming out of the halftime break, as everything went wrong for Redwood in the first half. The Rangers came out of the locker room with a sense of urgency and marched right down the field on their first possession before the drive stalled in the red zone. The defense stepped up and finally got a stop as senior Gavin House’s interception gave Mustang quarterback Carmine Ficher one of his few blemishes on the night. The Rangers took over at midfield before making it back to the red zone, and converted a fourth and 1 at the goal line for their second score of the night. Before the momentum could fully make its way to their sideline, Tulare Western blocked the extra point to make the score 28-13.
The Ranger defense continued to find it’s stride in the second half. They forced Ficher into another rare mistake on the night as he overthrew a receiver who had a step on his defender on third and long. Following a punt, Redwood junior quarterback Francisco Alvarez launched a 74-yard bomb to senior Kolby Howard which sparked new life into the entire sideline and fans. Two quick touchdowns in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter had the Rangers back in the game as they trailed 28-20.
The Mustang offense played a bit conservative in the second half as they ran the ball more to eat away at the clock. Their passing game led them to their 28 first half points, and they went right back to it once the game got too close for their liking. It was third and 11 on their own 29-yard line with 4:21 left in the game, and all momentum was on Redwood’s side. Ficher dropped back to pass and heaved the ball down the field to junior receiver Carson Lopes who outran the entire defense en route to a 71-yard score. The touchdown gave Tulare Western a 35-20 lead, and silenced the Redwood sideline. It was one of three touchdowns on the night for Ficher who ended with 308 yards through the air.
Redwood didn’t lose hope and scored another touchdown to again cut the lead down to eight points, but couldn’t come up with the late onside kick which essentially ended the game.