Wildcats smack Aztecs

September 16, 2001|By TOM RONCO, (Special to this newspaper)

PALM DESERT — Like a heavyweight boxer looking to deliver that one knockout punch, the Brawley Union High Wildcat football team scored on five big plays to defeat Palm Desert 35-6 here Friday night.

The Wildcats uncharacteristically had as many touchdowns as first downs as they used superior speed to burn the Aztecs on plays of 100, 63, 50, 75 and 68 yards.

"I was surprised we came out so strong and that we made so many big plays," said Wildcat coach John Bishop. "We don't get those every week."

The game may well have been decided when Dominic Aguirre took the opening kickoff with one foot in the end zone and cut to the right, broke two tackles and sprinted down the sideline for a touchdown.


"I looked to see if I was over the line," said Aguirre. "I just followed my blockers and they gave me the holes … our special teams picked it up and everybody did their part."

Just seconds into the game, Aguirre kicked the PAT and Brawley lead a stunned Aztec team 7-0.

"It looked like we didn't show up the first half," stated Palm Desert head coach Pat Blackburn. "It was 28-0 before we had time to blink. They really outran us. The kickoff return hurt."

If the Aztecs were hurt, the Wildcats, losers to Indio last week, were elated.

"It got us pumped up," said Aguirre. "We didn't do that good last week and we needed something to jump-start us and it did."

"It's our first (kickoff return for a touchdown) since Kurt Rubin did it in 1997," said Bishop. "It definitely set the tone, got everybody up and gave us a big emotional lift and confidence."

The Wildcats held Palm Desert to three and out, the Aztecs forced Brawley to punt and the Wildcats again held.

On the Wildcats' second possession, Mitchell Ruiz raced 63 yards around the left end for a touchdown to make the score 14-0.

Again the Aztecs could not manage a first down and the Wildcats made them pay.

On a third and 10, Aguirre found Richard Encinas with a 50-yard scoring pass to up the lead to 21-0.

"I ran a backside post pattern and had the defender beaten by eight steps and there was no safety," said Encinas. "I didn't expect Dominic to throw to me because I was the secondary receiver."

"He wasn't my first look but I saw they were playing him soft and that there was no safety and he was wide open," said Aguirre.

On an uncharacteristic night, the Wildcats attempted nine passes, including four by backup quarterback Brian Emanuelli, who threw to Aguirre when playing split end.

"We went into the game wanting to open up offensively and Dominic has been throwing well and we have guys who can catch," said Bishop. "We tried to throw more, especially to combat their 10-man defensive fronts."

The Wildcats again held the Aztecs to four downs but Palm Desert suddenly found itself with great field position after recovering a fumble at the Wildcat 35-yard line.

The Aztecs did manage their first first down on the drive but little else as the Brawley defense stopped the rushing game and harassed quarterback Jimmy Bohm.

Andy Buckner continued the big play theme on the second play of Brawley's next drive when he ran 75 yards to increase the lead to 28-0.

Palm Desert then mounted its best drive of the first half. Aided by a key penalty, the Aztecs drove to the Wildcat 11-yard line before a fumble ended the drive.

"Steve (Duran) popped it loose and I saw it and fell on it," said Tyler Sanders, who recovered the fumble.

The game was a marked improvement over the Indio game for Brawley defensively.

"We have a small but quick defense," said Bishop. "Coach (Jon) Self figured it out and we had the right people out there this week."

Following the turnover, Ruiz again broke outside, this time racing 68 yards for Brawley's final score.

"Our offensive line did a great job, I went through both times untouched and then beat their defensive backs," said Ruiz. "Our line dominated. They were bigger but our guys stepped it up."

Another improvement was the kicking game.

"I was a little more comfortable this week, and the blocking was there on the place kicks," said Aguirre who nailed all five PAT attempts. "The punting went well and Grant (Elmore who replace Aguirre for kickoffs) stayed after practice to get better and he did well."

The second half saw both teams struggle to sustain a drive. Palm Desert scored on Matt McDonald's 35-yard run late in the fourth quarter, following another Brawley fumble.

"The question is, can we drive the ball and score without making mistakes?" said Bishop.

"They probably took us lightly after scouting our loss to Indio," Bishop said. "We got ahead and made it tough for them."

Brawley (1-1) will play a rare non-league Saturday afternoon game when it travels to Clairemont High in San Diego for a 3:30 start. Clairemont (0-2) lost Friday night to Serra 28-0 after dropping its opening game of the season to Santana 20-7.

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