Exeter football advances to Central Valley semifinals

Exeter’s Niqo Calderon runs the ball against Roosevelt. The Exeter Monarchs now advance to the semifinals where they will face Dos Palos on the road.(Kason Clark)

Monarchs win 45-22 at home against Roosevelt in the Division IV Central Section playoffs; Exeter will next head on the road to face Dos Palos

EXETER – Exeter football ended its regular season on a sour note, with a loss to Reedley that ended an undefeated season. After a tough loss like that, many teams would let that result hang over them as they went into the postseason.

But not these Monarchs as they have gotten right back on track in the Division IV Central Section playoffs. After defeating Highland to open the postseason, the Monarchs kept rolling with a 45-22 win over Roosevelt at Monarch Stadium this past Thursday, Nov. 9.

“It was a huge win for our kids, for the school and for the community. The kids just battled all night long,” Exeter head coach Keirsten Lamb said. “The mantra this week was we aren’t going home and they proved that tonight.”

The Roosevelt Rough Riders had been playing some of their best football of the season, winning five straight games heading into their matchup with the Monarchs. But what a team does in the regular season does not matter once the playoffs roll around.

“Honestly, I think they came in here and were overlooking us,” Lamb said. “They had beaten Reedley in week one and we didn’t play well against Reedley. I think they were hanging their hat on that and thought they were going to come in and get us.”

With their two wins to open the postseason, the Monarchs have improved their record to 11-1 this season. With that tough loss to Reedley now just a memory, Exeter junior Wyatt Stockton believes it might have been a blessing in disguise for the Monarchs.

“We were just learning from that experience more than getting upset,” Stockton said. “It actually set us up for the future in a really good way.”

The Exeter offense for sure woke up, scoring its most points in its past four games. On the ground, both Stockton and Niqo Calderon ran for a pair of touchdowns. Quarterback Jacob Molina also played well with both a touchdown pass and a rushing score.

The offense got rolling in the first quarter, as Molina completed a 35-yard pass to Aidan Martinez to get the Monarchs down to the Roosevelt 16-yard line. Calderon then took a pitch into the endzone to give Exeter the lead. On their next possession, Molina completed several passes to march his team down the field. Molina then kept it himself on a scramble for a 14-yard touchdown run and a 14-0 lead.

Early in the second quarter, the Monarchs converted a fourth down with a 34-yard run from Calderon. On the next play, Calderon scored from five yards out to give Exeter a 21-0 lead. Needing to stop the bleeding, the Rough Riders put together a drive that ended with a ten-yard touchdown run from Dimareea Banks.

With the half coming to a close, the Monarchs used what little time they had left to drive down the field. On the final play of the half, Carlos Garcia nailed his field goal to give Exeter a 24-7 lead at the break.

Looking to get back in the game, the Rough Riders opened the second half with a drive that ended with quarterback Jackson Kloster throwing a five-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Young. The Rough Riders then forced an Exeter punt and had the chance to cut it to a one-score game.

But on the first play of the drive, Banks fumbled the ball and Exeter defensive back Joseph Ruiz fell on top of it. A few plays later, Stockton ran it up the gut for a one-yard touchdown run to make it 31-14.

When the Monarchs got the ball back later in the third quarter, they looked for the killing blow. And at the Roosevelt 39-yard line, Ruben Ruiz put the game away when he caught a slant from Molina and ran it all the way for a touchdown.

In the fourth, Stockton scored on an eight-yard touchdown run to make it 45-14. Roosevelt finally responded with a touchdown and a two-point conversion, but they failed to recover the onside kick and the Monarchs ran out the clock.

After two wins at home to open the postseason, the Monarchs will now have to head on the road to face Dos Palos. While the No. 2 seed Dos Palos Broncos will be a tough opponent, the Monarchs are confident they can continue their run in the postseason.

“We’re feeling pretty good,” Stockton said. “I think we can do it if we just play like we did today.”

Regardless of how their semifinal game goes, the Monarchs have had a special season. In the regular season, they had their best start since 2008 and have now surpassed that team’s win total with their two playoff victories. If the Monarchs can maintain the magic and camaraderie that has carried them this far, Lamb believes they will always have a shot.

“These kids like each other,” Lamb said. “They want to win, they fight for each other and it’s magical. These kids know that they’re in a super good spot and they worked hard to get to where they’re at.”

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