Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera Coyote head coach Yosef Fares wears the Governor’s Hat after his team defeated Merced 48-42 on Friday. He receives congratulations from Madera athletic director John Fernandez and principal Robyn Cosgrove.
The Madera Coyotes scored the go-ahead touchdown with seconds left in the game and beat the Merced Bears in a shootout, 48-42, to reclaim the Governor’s Hat for the first time since 2006.
“It was tremendous, this was a huge win for us,” head coach Yosef Fares said. “With the tradition of this game and the fact we haven’t won this in 10 years, so that was a big one for us.”
Led by Colt Nelson, who passed for more than 400 yards and six touchdowns, and Jayson Regua, who chipped in 121 yards receiving and two touchdowns, one on the ground, the Coyotes showed their fans and the Valley that their three-game winning streak is no fluke.
“We have the capabilities to put big points up every week if we are executing our offense the right way,” Fares said. “If we’re executing our offense the right way, guys making catches and running the right routes, we feel we can put up those stats every week.”
Tied at 42 late in the fourth quarter, the Coyotes were in desperation mode. In order to rescue the game, they had to march down the field and score. All it took was six plays to change the game.
Nelson hooked up with J.J. Espinoza for seven yards before handing off consecutive plays to Regua and Velazquez, who combined for a first down.
However, it was Nelson’s 30-yard pass to Regua, who caught the dump off and side stepped his way for the big gain that set up the final act.
Raeshon Hill out maneuvered his defender and patiently waited for the accurate strike from Nelson. The 25-yard touchdown not only took the lead, but also put the game to bed.
After a slow and dull first quarter, the Coyotes and Bears leaped into action in the second.
The Coyotes took to their passing game early in the game and it paid off.
The second quarter opened with a bang after Nelson fired a pass deep into the waiting arms of Joseph Saldivar. The pass sailed 30 yards before it found its way to Saldivar in the end zone.
The Bears answered back quickly after methodically driving down the field before quarterback Dhameer Warren kept it himself for a nine-yard touchdown run.
After a sack set the Coyotes back, Madera capitalized on plays of 22 and 32 yards to get them into the red zone. Jerry Hernandez caught a deep ball down the sideline to set up the score for Espinoza, who caught a short pass from Nelson.
With the momentum on their side, the Coyote defense denied the Bears and forced a three-and-out behind tough pass defense.
Their offense followed suit with a quick-strike drive that lasted four plays, culminating in Regua’s only rushing touchdown of the night.
With the half inching closer, the Bears dialed up their big play offense and scored a 6-yard touchdown after Warren hit Xavier Stewart in stride to cut Madera’s lead to 21-14 at the half.
The second half action picked after Nelson Found Regua for a 63-yard touchdown. Regua caught the dump off and zigzagged down the sideline for the big score.
After a Merced punt, the Coyotes found the answer, once again, after Nelson found Espinoza for a 55-yard touchdown pass.
The Coyotes lead wouldn’t last long though. Led by Warren, the Bears scored three touchdowns in the third quarter to take a 42-35.
The Bears capitalized on big plays down the field to get themselves back into the game. Behind accurate passing from Warren, the Bears scored on three straight possessions. His dual-threat ability kept the Coyotes off balance in the second half.
However, the Coyotes are used to adversity and they responded with intent. Down by a touchdown, the Coyotes answered their opponent’s score.
Nelson hit Hernandez for a 25-yard touchdown pass that brought the team and crowd back into the game and tied the score.
The Coyotes newfound confidence began to circulate. The defense stepped up and forced a three-and-out, setting up a classic comeback victory for the Coyotes.
The home team took over possession and never looked back. Coach Fares dialed up his passing game, which was unstoppable all night long. The Coyotes’ six-play drive was capped off by a 25-yard strike from Nelson to Hill, which brought the crowd to their feet.
After a final Merced drive went wary, the Coyotes stormed the field in triumph and took possession of the Governor’s Hat.
The Governor’s Hat came from Goodwin Knight, who was California’s governor from 1953-1959. He attended a Madera-Merced football game and gave his cowboy hat to the winning team.
“I think this win gives them a lot of confidence,” Fares said. “We beat a very physical team in Hanford. Now we beat a very athletic team and we’re going to Atascadero. We’re just going to focus though and continue to do what we need to do and focus on Coyote football.”
After 11 long years, the hat is back in Madera.