SANGER —The Madera Coyotes enter the final week of the regular season after a 53-14 loss to Sanger at Tom Flores Stadium.
While Sanger is going into the final week undefeated controlling their own destiny, Madera is trying to salvage an underachieving season after last Friday’s game. With a win this Friday at Memorial Stadium, the Coyotes will end the year with pride in tact and bragging rights over their crosstown rival. Sanger can win the County/Metro Athletic Conference outright with a win over San Joaquin Memorial-Fresno.
Heading into last Friday’s game, Madera made a change at quarterback allowing sophomore Colt Nelson to rotate with junior quarterback Jerry Hernandez. Hernandez started the team’s first seven games with Nelson starting the last two. In those previous two games, neither Hernandez nor Nelson was able to take care of the football and cut back on the turnovers.
This year’s Apaches defense is poised for a Division II championship run and proved to be too much for the Coyote’s struggling offense. To begin the opening possession, Nelson dropped the snap and was drilled by Apache linebacker Adrian Valencia. On the second possession of the game, a player from Madera was ejected for throwing a punch.
The night only got better for Sanger. The first play from scrimmage for Sanger was a 33-yard run by senior running back Andrew Azua. He scored the game’s first touchdown on the opening drive. Azua finished the night with 130 yards rushing on 11 carries.
The next two Madera possessions resulted in defensive touchdowns by Sanger. After a personal foul penalty resulted in an ejection, Madera was pushed back to the 12-yard line after beginning at their own 25-yard line. Without gaining a first down, the Coyotes attempt to punt was blocked on fourth-and-23. The Apaches were already leading by two touchdowns in the first five minutes.
Madera took over after the special teams score, turning to their starting running back, senior Joshua McMillon. McMillon struggled throughout the game, finishing with only 16 yards rushing and one touchdown on nine carries.
After McMillon’s second rush attempt for no gain, the Coyotes tried to open up their passing game. Nelson threw an interception at the 12-yard line to Sanger’s Arron Mosby, who walked into the end zone to give Sanger a 20-0 lead just 5:57 into the game.
The Coyote’s got ball back again after the Mosby interception return and lost yardage. Nelson recovered his own fumble for a loss of six yards and completed his only pass of the game to McMillon for a loss of eight yards. Another fourth-and-23 led to a punt.
When the Apaches took the field on offense for the second time with 3:41 remaining in the first quarter, they were already leading 20-0. Azua gained 15 yards and Mosby scored on a 46-yard touchdown reception to end the quarter leading 27-0.
Madera running back Jason Regua was the leading rusher for the Coyotes, yet on the possession following Mosby’s touchdown reception, he was unable to gain positive yards, as well. The Apache defense was as good as advertised. The defensive line was in the Coyote backfield in the blink of an eye. After five offensive drives, the Coyotes gained just six total yards.
Sanger then let its run game to exhaust the Coyotes defense even more before going through the air for their fifth score of the contest. The Apaches gained 66 yards in six plays. Four different rushers five attempts had the Coyotes defense in position to attack the line of scrimmage. Instead of running the ball for a sixth time in a row, junior wide receiver Ricky Moreno went over the top for a 24-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Jacob Tijerina.
In a frustrating and bizarre twist, with 9:20 left in the first half the Apaches gained possession on a pooch kickoff after the 24-yard touchdown pass from Tijerina. Joseph Saldivar couldn’t come down with the football and Sanger began the drive at the Coyote 35-yard line. With 8:16 left, Mosby scored his third touchdown, this one on a sweep to the left side from 11 yards out.
Madera went to Hernandez, who also happened to drop the snap of his first drop back as well as throw an interception. Less than two minutes after Mosby put Sanger ahead 40-0, senior running back and defensive back Christian Graney took Hernandez’s interception 50 yards for a touchdown.
After the Hernandez turnover, Madera put together its best drive of the game, avoiding the shutout. McMillon and Regua gained first downs and moved the ball for positive yards. Six first downs and five minutes later, McMillon found the end zone for a two-yard touchdown. Regua, McMillon and two rushes for 20 yards by Adrian Wilson helped the Coyotes rush for 71 yards on the scoring drive.
Sanger opened the second half receiving the ball to begin a drive that took 4:52 off the clock. Graney ran for a 34 yard gain that left most of the Coyote defense on the ground after Azua went for 23 yards before senior linebackers Justin Landero and Michael Brocchini brought him down. Azua finished the six play drive with a four-yard touchdown bringing the damage to a 46-point deficit.
The Coyotes were able to confirm the electric playmaking ability of sophomore all-purpose player, J.J. Espinoza. With 7:53 left in the third quarter Espinoza outran everyone for the second time in four games after being promoted from junior varsity. Espinoza would score the last touchdown of the game, bringing the final score to 53-14.
Senior defensive end Landero added to his quarterback sack total of the season after getting two more in the fourth quarter. The defense tightened up a bit nearing the end of regulation. Junior linebacker Akram Pacheco-Lopez has quietly been a consistent defensive presence throughout the year.
This year’s Coyote team would love nothing more than to finish this season with a win against their rival Madera-South Stallions. With a record the team believes in no way reflects their work ethic and dedication, a 1-9 season means a win against the Stallions.
The finale is set for 7:30 p.m. on Friday in Memorial Stadium.