Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera running back Eric Escobar runs around Atascadero defenders for an 81-yard touchdown run to open the scoring Friday night.
The Madera Coyotes will head into conference play without a win after the 45-27 loss to the Atascadero Greyhounds during last week’s homecoming.
The stage was set as the students were loud Friday night and the Coyotes took the field ready to secure a victory. Prior to kickoff, the Coyotes had an energy that radiated across Memorial Stadium.That energy carried over to the second play of the game.
Senior running back Eric Escobar made one quick cut to his left and went 81 yards on his first rush attempt of the night and the Coyote’s second play from scrimmage. The touchdown ignited the Madera sideline. The 7-0 lead was not unfamiliar territory to the Coyotes, who have had early leads in almost every game this season.
Atascadero took the field on their first possession of the game and responded with rushing touchdown. The Greyhounds rushed seven times on their opening drive with one pass attempt. Before the 7-yard touchdown run from Arik Machado, Atascadero tested the Madera run defense that has been a weakness for the Coyotes this season. The Greyhound drive began at the Coyote 20-yard line and went 80 yards in less than three minutes with runs of 27, 21, 18, and 7 yards.
Madera began their second drive with great field position. After the Escobar touchdown run, senior running back Josh McMillon had attempted rushes on first, second, and third-downs thwarted by the stout Greyhound defense. Now landlocked at midfield, unior quarterback Jerry Hernandez handed the ball to defensive standout Justin Landero on fourth down, who was stopped for no gain and turned the ball over on downs.
After the Coyotes went three-and-out, it took four plays for Atascadero to score its second touchdown. A first-down run of 42 yards helped the Greyhounds lead 14-7.
Madera’s following possession ended with a punt after Hernandez was drilled for a sack and running back Dakota Torres fumbled in the backfield for a loss of six yards. That punt resulted in the 62-yard return for a touchdown and a 21-7 lead.
McMillon gained eight yards on consecutive rushes but on third down Escobar was stopped for a loss of two yards. The energy was slowly being drained from the Coyote players who were undersized and unable to block the opposing line.
The Madera defense did not give up after 21 unanswered points. Landero and the Coyote defense laid a big hit on Greyhounds quarterback Carson Rickenberger to force their first three-and-out of the game. The Greyhounds took the field to punt on the 36-yard line with 8.4 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
The Atascadero special team unit ran a fake punt for a gain of 11 yards to end the first quarter. The fake punt was a punch to the gut. The Madera defense was winded and the Greyhound receivers towered over the secondary. Two first down runs and a 21-yard play action pass brought the defense to their knees as the Greyhounds ran it in from two yards out for the 28-7 lead.
The first half continued with Madera’s mistakes on offense, which killed any chance of putting points on the scoreboard. Coyote wide receiver Michael Hartley caught wide open would-be touchdown, but juggled and fumbled the ball, which was, recovered by Atascadero.
That turnover led to a drive of four first downs by the Greyhounds that started at their own 33-yard line and ended in the end zone. A 22-yard rush and a 15-yard penalty allowed the Greyhound to lead 35-7.
Madera tried to go into halftime with something, anything. The drive at the end of the second quarter was another turnover on downs. Hernandez recovered his own fumble, and had two pass incompletions, and a rush for no gain.
The Greyhounds began the second half with great field position. Their opening drive ended with a nine-yard touchdown reception from Rickenberger to tight end Kobe Cross for a 42-7 lead.
Madera was able to put together a 70-yard drive in six minutes. Landero, Torres, Hernandez, and McMillon helped the run game overcome a 15-yard penalty. McMillon helped his quarterback get into rhythm and moved the ball downfield with two receptions. After gaining five first-downs, Hernandez connected with Alexander Lopez for 13 yards cutting the lead 28.
Both teams exchanged turnovers in the fourth quarter. The 28-point deficit was too large and the clock expired leaving Madera winless.
The Coyotes have a bye week following the homecoming loss and next host the Edison Tigers on Oct. 7 at 7:30 p.m.