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Wildcats roll in Bell Game preview

September 30, 2001|By TOM RONCO, Special to this newspaper

BRAWLEY — At first glance, the Brawley Union High School Wildcat 52-0 victory over Central Union on Friday night would appear to be a great offensive performance.

And it was, as Brawley had a total offense of 482 yards.

At the same time, the real story might be a Wildcat defense that held the Spartans to a net five yards rushing, or it might be the play of unheralded running back Arturo Ayon, who ran for 144 yards, including two touchdowns, on just eight carries.

Either way, the first offensive series for both teams was definitely a harbinger of things to come.

Winning the coin flip, Brawley started at its 28-yard line and quarterback Dominic Aguirre immediately kept the ball on the option and gained 20 yards.

Andy Buckner then ran the dive for 27 more, Aguirre added eight and Bobby Myers 13 to set up a four-yard touchdown run by Buckner, with Aguirre kicking the PAT.

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Seven plays, 72 yards, seven points.

"Offensively we won the battle up front with our line because we didn't do anything fancy. We just ran up the middle," said Wildcat coach John Bishop. "That first drive set the tone because we tried the middle and they gave it to us."

Central's first drive started at its 25-yard line. Anthony Hellum ran for five yards on first down but was tackled for a loss on second down.

A penalty also was called, making it second down and 17 from the Spartan nine yard-line. Victory Cesena gained three yards before quarterback Erik Castro was sacked on third down and Central punted the ball.

On four plays the Spartans managed negative 12 yards.

"I felt we were ready and practice this week was fine," said Central coach Joe Apodaca. "But we did not tackle, we did not block and basically we didn't play football."

Said Bishop: "Defensively we shut them down with an attacking style that Jon (defensive coordinator Jon Self) has used since the Indio game. Jon has done a great job putting the right people out there … this is the quickest defense we've ever had."

Quickness translates to defensive lineman Shaun Palacio getting 11 tackles, two sacks and causing a fumble.

"I was ready and we knew we had to pressure Castro and try to intimidate him," said Palacio. "We had a good practice and came out fired up."

Castro would complete only one pass, late in the game, while being sacked six times.

Opposite Palacio on the defensive line is Tyler Sanders, who had seven tackles and two sacks.

"I think our whole defense was up because Castro didn't get to throw and we kept Hellum inside so he couldn't get outside and hurt us," Sanders said.

Actually, if Brawley is quick, Central is fast.

But Hellum, who finished with 15 carries for eight yards, Cesena with six carries for two yards, and Ricky Paleo six carries for 11 yards, all were kept in check.

Meanwhile, the Cats were benefiting from great field position thanks to their defense and a short punting game from the Spartans.

Four of Brawley's five possessions of the first half started in Central territory.

Aguirre scored his first touchdown of the season on Brawley's second drive from 13 yards out and then connected early in the second quarter on a 41-yard touchdown pass to Richard Encinas, who broke two tackles after making the catch.

Central went three and out on all its first-half possessions, leading to two more Wildcat touchdown runs, with junior Adrian Vandiver scoring from four yards on his first carry of the season and Brawley rushing leader Mitchell Ruiz running for a 16-yard touchdown just before the end of the first half to give Brawley a 33-0 lead at halftime.

The Wildcats opened the second half as they ended the first, forcing a Spartan punt, then getting a 31-yard touchdown run from Ayon, who was in for an injured Buckner.

"I was not going to let him get me so I just went right through him," said Ayon of a would-be Spartan tackler.

Central gained its only two first downs of the game on its next drive but again the Brawley defense dropped Castro for an eight-yard loss and Hellum for a 10-yard loss and forced a punt.

Aguirre fumbled on Brawley's first play and Central had another chance but failed to capitalize on the turnover.

Taking over at the Spartan 43-yard line, Vandiver capped an eight-play drive, the longest of the night for Brawley, with an eight-yard touchdown run.

Forced again to punt on its next drive, Central's now weary defense watched Ayon run 32 yards for Brawley's final touchdown.

"I've been ready all year but Buck has been doing the job," said Ayon. "The holes were huge as all our offensive linemen did a great job."

Said Bishop: "We know Arturo has talent but we have tried to keep him on just on defense. He's strong, quick and along with Vandiver, hard to tackle."

Brawley (3-1) will travel to Vista on Saturday to play the Rancho Bueno Vista Longhorns, a Division I school. The game will start at 7:30 p.m.

"We've been winning with a small and quick defense," said Bishop referring to next week's match-up. "But big and quick beats small and quick every time."

Central (0-4) will regroup with consecutive home games at Cal Jones Field in El Centro against Silverado of Victor Valley at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Holtville the next Friday.

"Everything they did we expected, this game was not about X's and O's," said Apodaca, who thinks his team will be a factor in the Imperial Valley League race. "We just did not play football tonight. It was our worst effort of the year. I take responsibility for it."

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