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Wildcats fall to Marian 28-7

December 01, 2001|By Tom Ronco, Special to this newspaper

SAN DIEGO — As projected, the San Diego CIF Semi-final Division III football game between the Marian Catholic High Crusaders and the Brawley High Wildcats featured a swarming defense and an opportunistic break-away offense.

Unfortunately for Brawley, Marian fit that description better than the Wildcats as it capitalized on four turnovers to score a 28-7 victory on the synthetic turf of Patrick Henry High School's football field here Friday night.

"They were very physical, very quick," said Brawley coach John Bishop. "Even with that we had our chances and we killed ourselves."

The Marian defense had as much to do with the win as the turnovers.

The Crusaders held Brawley's Andy Buckner, who was averaging about 120 yards a game, to just 11 yards on nine carries. Mitchell Ruiz was held to 42 yards and quarterback Dominic Aguirre led the Wildcats with 69 yards on 14 carries.


"The quickness of their defense surprised us because we hadn't seen one that quick this year," said Bishop.

A team knows when it's in trouble when its quarterback, who normally throws about seven times a game, puts up 18 passes.

The Wildcats were in the game until midway through the fourth quarter, having dominated the first half.

The defense forced Marian to punt on its first drive following the opening kickoff. Taking possession on their 19-yard line, the Wildcats came within inches of a first down but elected to punt.

Marian's next drive ended in negative yardage when the Wildcats shut down the run and, with Shaun Palacio and Curtis Smith leading the defensive charge, sacked quarterback Mario Ledesma twice.

At their own 25-yard line, the Wildcats got a five-yard run from Mitchell Ruiz before fumbling on the next play.

Marian's Eugene Alantz then took a hand-off at the 24-yard line, broke two tackles and scooted into the end zone against a stunned Brawley defense. With the extra point, Marian led 7-0.

On Brawley's next possession, the Wildcats picked up their first first down of the game on an Aguirre-to-Joel Aguirre eight-yard pass. On the next play, the Wildcats fumbled.

Marian could not capitalize on the turnover but the Wildcats again went three and out on their next drive.

Neither team moved the ball on alternating possessions as the defenses stiffened, with Brawley holding the Crusaders on a fourth and 15 play to take over on downs.

With 22 seconds left in the half, Marian was faced with a fourth down and two from its own 35-yard line. The Marian center snapped the ball to Ledesma, but the Marian players were apparently on another snap count and did not move.

The Wildcat defense did, pushing through the confused line to dog-pile Ledesma. In the ensuing chaos, Alantz flagrantly kicked Brawley's Bobby Myers in the chest and was ejected from the game.

Brawley took over on downs with 17.5 seconds left in the half and the personal foul penalty assessed against Alantz gave the Wildcats the ball at the Crusaders' 17-yard line.

Aguirre quickly hit Ruiz with a pass in the flat, good for 10 yards. Brawley then put three wide receivers to the wide side of the field to spread the defense and Aguirre knifed in from the five-yard line for the score.

Aguirre's PAT knotted the score at 7-7 at halftime.

"That touchdown fired us up," said Bishop. "We came out in the second half ready to play and in great shape with the tie."

The Wildcats were in great shape defensively, having held Marian's high-octane offense to 79 yards total offense, sacking Ledesma four times, and Marian's leading rusher, Altantz, was gone for the night.

The second half opened with the Wildcats failing to get a first down, followed by two critical drives that decided the games outcome.

On Marian's first play of the second half, the Crusaders caught the Wildcats with everyone on the line of scrimmage and when they pitched the ball to fullback Patrick Gates, whom Brawley had held in check in the first half, he ran untouched 65 yards for a touchdown.

"We watched a lot of film on them and they never ran that play on anything we saw," said Bishop. "It was the right play at the right time and took the wind out of us."

"Everybody was up close so it was hard to read the play and he just broke it," said defensive lineman Steve Duran.

Needing a score, Brawley's offense rallied, driving the ball from its 41-yard line to the Crusaders' 19. On the drive, Aguirre passed to Richard Encinas for seven yards before running for consecutive eight-yard gains himself. On fourth and six from the 19-yard line Brawley was unable to convert when Buckner was stopped for a one-yard loss.

The Brawley defense now had to defend a short field as Marian took over on the Wildcat 20. The defense forced Marian to punt lead by linebacker Arturo Ayon and defensive lineman Adrian Vandiver.

The Wildcats then took possession and drove to the Crusader 27-yard line where on first and 10 they fumbled.

"We are marching down the field and the fumble killed us," said Bishop. "I was planning on going for two points to get the lead when that happens."

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