Hawks football scores 54 second half points, improves to 8-0

Mission Oak overcomes 19-point deficit at halftime to defeat Tulare Union 60-38

TULARE – A 19-point deficit is seemingly nothing to a big play offense, and apparently scoring seven touchdowns in a half isn’t out of the question either.

After trailing 25-6, the Mission Oak Hawks outscored the Tulare Union Tribe 54-13 in the second half to clinch a share of the East Yosemite League (EYL) championship and stay undefeated on the season.

For context, Mission Oak’s 54 points in the second half is more than they’ve scored in any full game this season, while also being the second most points any other team in the EYL has scored. According to head coach Michael Machado, the team’s game plan didn’t change much despite only being able to muster six first half points. He knew how explosive his team could potentially be on offense, and believes it was on show in the EYL clinching win.

“I just told our guys that no adjustments were going to be made. The decision of how you were going to play the second half was going to be between you and you. And they just had to make a decision to play better and to play to their ability. And obviously, they played to the top of their ability,” Machado said.

He told his team that he wasn’t mad at them, just disappointed that they were playing below their abilities. That was all they needed to hear.

They got the ball first in the second half and relied on the arm of senior transfer quarterback Rudy Navarro to get them back in the game. A few quick slants got them down the field before senior Anthony Ledesma made the catch of the night. About 13 yards outside of the redzone, Navarro tossed a pass to the end zone to Ledesma who made a tough contested catch for six. He made another contested catch over a defender on the next play for the two-point conversion which cut the lead down to 11 in the first two minutes of the second half.

After nearly recovering an onside kick but letting it slip away, the Hawks defense came up with a third down sack to get their offense the ball back. They went right back to the slants to move the ball down the field. This time it was senior receiver Jaden Hernandez who took the slant and beat an overly aggressive defender before turning on the jets for a 56-yard touchdown catch for six more points. They didn’t get the two-point conversion but suddenly they were now down 25-20 with just under five minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Michael Iriye and Kaream Davis chest bump following one of Mission Oak's seven second half touchdowns.Photo by Jermaine Johnson II

Although the two teams share a home stadium, it was technically a home game for the Hawks. As they rallied from behind, the momentum stayed on the Hawks side of the field for seemingly the entire second half. Tulare Union junior running back Kehajay Daniels did his best to rally his guys with a good kick return to midfield to give his offense good field position on the following drive. After some big catches from Tribe junior Pedro Alvarez, Daniels finished the drive off with a touchdown run which increased their lead to 32-20.

The big plays and long touchdowns were far from over for the Hawks. Just a few plays later, Navarro connected with senior Kaream Davis for the touchdown of over 80 yards. He was simply too fast for the defense as he ran right past everyone, and Hernandez added the two-point conversion which cut their deficit down to 32-28.

The Hawks defense struggled to get stops up until this point in the game, but forced a three and out on the ensuing drive. That set up a 55-yard touchdown pass to Hernandez in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, allowing Mission Oak to take their first lead of the game. Following a Michael Iriye two-point conversion run, they were up 36-32.

From there, a fourth quarter onslaught ensued as the Hawks outscored the Tribe 32-6 in the final period. Ledesma, Hernandez and Davis all ended with over 100 receiving yards, while Iriye finished with over 100 yards from scrimmage. Navarro combined for over 500 yards through the air and on the ground with six touchdowns.

This was a statement win for the Mission Oak Hawks. It was their first win over Tulare Union, most points in a game and first EYL title since 2014. If they defeat the 3-5 Delano Tigers on Friday, they’ll be outright champions but if they lose then they’ll share the title with the winner of Tulare Union and Tulare Western. This is all in the first full season under Machado.

“That [win] was just the most massive step that you could ever imagine, in year one and a half of building a program,” Machado said. “The sky’s the limit at this point for Mission Oak football. The city of Tulare and all the little kids should want to be a Mission Oak Hawk now.”

Mission Oak’s reward for their stellar season is a likely ranking near the top of Division II for the Valley playoffs which begins next week.

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