Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera South receiver Jaylan Neal battles for extra yardage during Thursday’s loss to Bullard. Neal set school records for most receptions (11) and most receiving yards (171) in a game.
FRESNO — If it weren’t for its first half woes, the Madera South Stallions football team would have had a more competitive game against the Bullard-Fresno Knights in McLane Stadium.
Unfortunately, the Stallions wasted a season-high 515 yards of total offense by turning the ball over three times against the Knights. Bullard scored the 31 first half points, capped by a 76-yard touchdown catch-and-run with 30 seconds left in the first half in a 52-21 victory Thursday.
“Turnovers and penalties killed us,” head coach Dane Cook said. “Defensively, we started off sluggish. We finished the game strong, except for the last play of the first half.”
Madera South quarterback Jonah Johnson threw for 227 yards and rushed for 157 yards and accounted for 75 percent of the Madera South offense.
Of Johnson’s 227 yards passing, 171 were caught by Jaylan Neal on 11 receptions, both school records.
“The offense was working well,” Cook said. “The defense was inconsistent. I thought we did some good things. Jaylan has done a good job. He has come a long way. Jonah played real well tonight.”
Madera South hosts Edison-Fresno on Friday before playing the Madera Coyotes in the Stadium Road Showdown on Nov. 4 .
“I’m proud of our kids,” Cook said. “Our kids haven’t quit all year. We still haven’t played our best game. We’re a Div. IV team playing against very good Div. I and Div. II teams. Our kids played hard. We just have to build on the good we did, make some corrections and look to get better.”
The Stallions outgained the Knights all game and drove the ball in the first quarter, but couldn’t get the ball across the goal line.
“Bullard is a good, well-coached team,” Cook said. “We are our own worse enemy. We have to do what we’re capable of doing. It’s just mental breakdowns.”
Bullard took the opening kickoff and drove 76 yards for the game’ first touchdown.
Highlighted by a 46-yard pass completion to Mathew Manoz, the Stallions drove to the Bullard 26 before turning the ball over on downs.
Bullard then drove 75 yards on 11 plays for a second touchdown. The Stallions drove inside Bullard territory, but Johnson was picked off and the ball was returned to the one-yard line. The Knights scored on the next play for a 21-0 lead with 1:32 left in the first quarter.
Behind a 26-yard run by Johnson, the Stallions drove to the one yard line. However, Bullard stripped Johnson of the ball and recovered the fumble.
The Madera south defense stepped up. Tackles by Israel Estrada and Juan Velasquez forced a Bullard punt.
On the Madera South’s next play, the snap goes off the top of Johnson’s help and goes to the turf where a Bullard play jumps on it for a fumble recovery.
The Knights drove to the 11-yard line, but a 14-yard loss on a tackle by Esteban Rodriguez and Felipe Lozano forced a Bullard field goal. Brandon Simonian hit a 42-yarder for a 24-0 lead with seven minutes left in the half.
The Stallions then went on a 14-play drive inside the Bullard 20-yard line. However, the Stallions turned the ball over on downs near the end of the first half.
Two plays later, Bullard struck with a backbreaking blow, a 76-yard catch-and-run from Davion Franklin for a 31-0 lead with 42 seconds left in the half.
“We would stop them and, boom, they just ran right by us,” Cook said. “We had the call that should have worked and the guys run right by the football.”
What could have been a 24-7 halftime lead and, with the Stallions scoring at the beginning of the second half, a 24-14 game turned into a momentum changer and a 31-0 halftime lead after the turnover on downs and long touchdown.
The Stallions began the second half at their own 20-yard line. On third down, Johnson hit Neal for 11 yards and a first down. Two plays later, Johnson hit Neal for 15 yards. On third-and-nine, Johnson, again, hit Neal for a first down after an 11-yard gain. After Maurice McClain gained seven, Johnson hit Neal for 14-yards to the 19-yard line.
Johnson took the ball to the six with a 13-yard gain. Three plays later, Johnson scored from a yard out for a touchdown after six-minute, 15-play drive.
Bullard struck with a touchdown in four plays for a 38-7 lead.
Madera South, again, began its next drive from 20-yard line. On third-and-10, Johnson hit Neal for a 28-yard catch-and-run and a first down. Johnson carried for nine yards and McClain rushed for seven more.
Johnson found Jacob Kirkpatrick for a first down to the 24-yard line. On the next play, Johnson ran up the middle, avoiding tacklers, for a 24-yard touchdown run, his second of the game.
Bullard answered again, this time with a four play, 55-yard drive, capped by a 27-yard touchdown run for a 45-14 lead with a minute left in the third.
Johnson rushed for a 16-yard gain and a first down and hit Neal for 16-yards to the Bullard 39-yard line.
On the next play, Johnson lofted a ball down the field and Neal ran under it with a diving catch at the Bullard six-yard line. Johnson scored two plays later from four-yards out for his third touchdown.
Bullard’s second string drove down the field with a touchdown after a five-play, 48-yard drive for the 52-21 final score.