Wendy Aalexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera running back Eric Escobar outruns a Mission Oak defender on a 72-yard touchdown run during Thursday’s 42-41 loss to the Mission Oak Hawks.
TULARE — The Madera Coyotes football team failed to complete a potential game-winning two-point conversion late in the fourth quarter against the Mission Oak-Tulare Hawks, losing 42-41.
Running back Eric Escobar fell a yard short in his attempt at a two-point conversion with 3:29 left in the game Thursday night in Tulare’s Bob Mathias Stadium.
It looked like the Coyotes were in control early in the first quarter. With both teams playing to win their first games of the season, Madera, again, found themselves playing from behind, only to come up short against the Hawks.
Things seemed to go Madera’s way early.
Junior quarterback Jerry Hernandez hit wide receiver Joseph Salvidar on a fourth down to put the Coyotes in scoring position before Hernandez ran in the first touchdown of the game.
On the following play, Hawks quarterback Seth Logan fumbled and it was recovered by Madera’s Justin Landero. The second touchdown came from Escobar, who gained 92 rushing yards in the first quarter, along with his one-yard score on fourth down with just over one minute to play in the quarter.
With 1:11 left in the first quarter, Mission Oak started having success running the ball against Madera’s defense with consecutive runs of 40 and 28-yards, including touchdown from running back Jose Palomero. Palomero ended with 220 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
Early in the second quarter, Escobar made an incredible 72-yard touchdown run while breaking tackles and dragging Hawk’s defenders with him for a 21-7 lead.
Mission Oak answered with three straight touchdowns, one of which was a 62-yard run by Palomero for a 28-21 lead early in the second half.
Fast forward to the Coyotes’ opening drive of the second half. The Coyotes rushed for five first downs, marched down the field and tied the game at 28 after Hernandez threw the first of three touchdowns, this one to wide receiver Michael Green from 10 yards out.
Now tied at 28, the Hawks responded with a drive of 80 yards on eight plays, ending on a touchdown run of 51 yards from Logan. Mission Oak was able to run up the middle of the Coyote defense for a majority of its 471 yards rushing.
First-year head coach Yosef Fares knows his defense needs to tighten up. “There’s some areas we’ve got to grow in as far as scheme and fundamentals,” he said. “We’re teaching them a whole new way to play defense.”
The Coyotes showed in the second half that this team is wellconditioned enough to use their fresh legs to their advantage late in games. Now their task is putting those fundamentals to use and not allow big plays like they did in their second game. The Coyote’s defense watched the Hawks run for touchdowns of 28, 62, 42, 51 and 49 yards.
In the fourth quarter Madera found itself trailing 42-28.
With 7:26 left in the game, a pass interference penalty on Mission Oak allowed Madera to capitalize with Hernandez finding Ladero in the end zone to bring the Coyotes within seven points.
The pressure was put on the Coyotes’ defense and they proved that they can be trusted by stopping a drive that would’ve sealed the game. A pass deflection by Green on 3rd-and-17 forced the Hawks to punt.
“Defensively, we have to go to get better at fundamentals and continue to develop in our scheme and stay focused.” Fares said.
With 3:29 left in the fourth quarter, the offense did its job one more time. Landero caught his second touchdown pass from Hernandez in less than four minutes. The 39-yard score put Madera just an extra point away from tying the game at 42.
Instead of the conventional point-after touchdown kick from Juan Daza, who made five extra points on the night, Fares opted to go for a two-point conversion in an attempt to stun the Hawks and head home with their first win.
It didn’t go as planned when Escobar rushed up the middle and was stopped at the line of scrimmage, leaving Madera trailing 42-41.
With nearly three minutes left in the game the Hawks began their final drive at their own 45 and milked the game clock.
After two first down runs, the clock ran out on the Madera comeback and Mission Oak held on to secure the one-point victory.
Junior, all-purpose player Steven Sibley pointed to the offseason conditioning Fares put in place as the reason why the Coyote’s played with urgency until the clock expired.
“We’ve worked really hard all summer and we’re just trying to get better. Tonight was a big step up from last week,” Sibley said. “All of the summer workouts we’ve been doing prepared us. We were looking pretty good and nobody got tired. I think we just need a little more of an understanding, and to trust the process. We came out strong but just were overthinking things.”
A different team showed up Thursday night. Although the outcome was not up to par with Coyote expectation, the young team is growing up fast.
“What I like, is that we were competitive,” Fares added. “We cannot get frustrated right now. It’s a great group of guys with only three players on the team that have Varsity experience. We’ve grown in certain areas, but we still got a long way to go.”
Madera’s next game is Friday, Sept. 9 in their home opener against Hanford.