Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera quarterback Colt Nelson throws a pass against Mt. Whitney on Thursday. He threw for 401 yards and five touchdowns in a 76-62 victory in the first round of the Div. III playoffs. Madera faces top seed Tulare Western on Thursday.
The Madera Coyotes opened their playoff campaign with a 76-62 shootout victory over Mt. Whitney in the first round of the Div. III playoffs at Lee DaSilva field at Memorial Stadium.
“We did some good things to score and get into position,” Madera head Coach Yosef Fares said after his team’s big victory. “It was a little bit of a freaky game. I mean those two onside kicks that we got let us score 14 points before they even touched the ball in the second half.”
Being a defensive-minded coach, 62 points is a tough pill to swallow, Fares said.
“I’m a defensive guy. this is too many points,” Fares said. “We gave up a fumble to the house to start the game. Then, they got a pick six on the goal line so that’s 14. They got a kickoff return, so that’s 21. They did some things to take advantage of us and they’re smart coaches.
“That number six is a magician, but we just gotta keep doing what we’re doing and continue to grow. We’ve grown so much this season, we’ve grown from last year and we’ve just got to continue to grow.”
Behind Colt Nelson’s big day through the air and on the ground, the eight-seeded Coyotes put up 76 points, beating their previous record of 73, against the ninth seeded Pioneers. Nelson threw for more than 400 yards and five touchdowns, along with two rushing scores.
Josiah Velazquez and K’Veon Jones combined for 16 catches and 299 yards with four touchdowns while the Coyotes ground game was just as productive.
Joseph Saldivar carried the ball 30 times for 172 yards along with two touchdowns.
Fortunately for the Coyotes, they were scoring on defense also. Anthony Gonzalez came up big with a sack-fumble that he scooped up for a 20-yard touchdown.
Raelon Hill sealed the Coyotes 76-point effort with an interception return for a touchdown. Hill picked an errant pass out of the air and returned it to the house for the final points of the game.
Disaster struck the Coyotes on their first play of the game.
Saldivar took a handoff and fumbled. The Pioneers picked up the ball and took it 27 yards for the score.
The Coyotes responded with a 13-play drive to tie the game at seven. Nelson and Saldivar shouldered the load, mixing up the pass and run. Nelson passed for 30 yards and rushed for 14,while Saldivar carried the ball for 29 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown run to cap it off.
After the Pioneers scored on a Juan Garcia touchdown catch, the Coyotes took the ball from their own 33 and took 10 plays to take a 14-7 lead. Nelson completed six passes on the drive to Jones and Jerry Hernandez before he found Velazquez for a 20-yard touchdown.
The Pioneers opened the second quarter with a one-yard run and seemed to be in control. Although the Pioneers scored on a 100-yard kickoff return late in the quarter, the Coyotes poured it on in the second frame.
Madera relied on Nelson, who didn’t disappoint. Nelson hooked up with big-play receiver Jones with a route down the middle of the field. Jones turned up the field and burned the Pioneer defensive backs, taking the ball 80 yards for the score.
The Coyotes and Pioneers were tied at 21 before Madera pulled away.
Saldivar set up the Coyotes next touchdown after he gained 40 yards on three carries before Nelson hit Velazquez for 36 yards. Nelson called his own number and slammed into the end zone from 10 yards out for the touchdown.
The big plays kept coming for the Coyotes after Velasquez synced with Nelson for 63 yards and a touchdown. Madera wouldn’t be finished, however.
Gonzalez sacked Jaedyn Pineda and stripped him in the process. The ball rolled into his hands and he scooped it for the score and Gonzalez ran it into the end zone for Madera’s fourth touchdown of the quarter for a 42-27 halftime lead.
Even though Madera had a 15-point lead at the half, the team came out aggressively. Fares dialed up an onside kick return and it worked perfectly.
The Coyotes pounced on the loose ball and took over.
After consecutive runs by Saldivar, Nelson found J.J. Espinoza for a 35-yard touchdown to push the score to 49-27.
Madera wouldn’t be finished. Fares went back to the onside kick and Steven Sibely came up with the ball. Onside recoveries are rare and to get back-to-back sent the crowd into chaos.
With the momentum on their side, the Coyotes put the nail in the coffin after Jones took his second catch of the night into the end zone. Nelson found his man darting across the field for a three-yard score to lead 55-27 after a missed two-point conversion.
Although the Pioneers tacked on a few more scores towards the end of the game, Madera matched them, ending any chance of a comeback.
Nelson and Salvidar scored on touchdown runs to match the Pioneers. Hill closed out any chance of a comeback with a 25-yard pick-six for the final 76-62 score.
The Coyotes look to continue their march for a championship next week against top ranked Tulare Western, who feature one of the nation’s best players, Kashmir Allen. He leads the nation in touchdowns with 63.