Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera’s Jacob Garcia picks up extra yards during Friday’s victory over Washington Union. He rushed for 118 ayrds and a touchdown in the season-opening victory.
After an up and down first half, the Madera Coyotes football team found its rhythm in the second half to score 42 points and upend the Washington Union-Easton Panthers 49-20 at John Ventura Stadium.
“We told them at halftime to just do their job. We needed to stop pointing fingers here and there. Everything we were unsuccessful at, everything that slowed us down, was because guys didn’t do their job,” Madera head coach Yosef Fares said on the Coyotes’ first-half-struggles Friday night.
Although Madera faced an uphill battle at the onset, they were able to weather the storm.
“We were definitely not playing the football we’re capable of playing in the first half,” Fares said. “We got into the red zone about four times and didn’t convert. Defensively, I thought we did a good job. They did some stuff that they didn’t show on film and we weren’t prepared for, so our boys had to adjust, which is something we didn’t do very good job of before. When I first started, we wouldn’t have been able to adjust to something like that. Our boys were able to pick up and move on. They played their butts off and the coaching staff did a great job keeping everyone together. I’m excited.”
Once the Coyotes found their footing, there was no stopping Colt Nelson and company. It was a complete, all-around effort. Nelson passed for more than 200 yards and three touchdowns, hooking up with J.J. Espinoza 10 times for 182 yards and two touchdowns.
Madera’s running game also played a decisive role in the 29-point victory. Senior Jacob Garcia rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown, including a stretch in the first half where he rushed for 10-plus yards on three consecutive carries.
While the offense held its own, the Coyote defense showed its teeth as well with three takeaways — an interception and two fumble recoveries. Madera’s front seven and secondary group alowed one offensive touchdown. The other scores came off a kickoff and a fumble on the end zone.
I think the unsung hero is the offensive line,” Fares said. “Alex Carrillo, Alex Vaca, Tommy Molina, Mitchyll Bowman and Cristoval Garcia. Those guys dominated up front and that’s what really got us going in the right direction. Our offensive line is doing a really good job and so is our defensive line. When you can control both sides of the line like that, you have a chance for some success.”
Both Washington Union and Madera opened the first quarter on even terms. Neither team could take advantage, but both teams faced self-inflicted errors.
The Coyotes dealt with drops, more than five in the first half, although their second-half performance showed their confidence wasn’t affected in the slightest. Meanwhile the Panthers suffered from penalties and inaccuracy at the quarterback position.
Those quarterback-related issues came to head when the Coyotes front seven applied the pressure.
Madera’s front seven created enough pressure to force the Panthers into an inaccurate throw and interception.
Madera took over on its own 14 and turned the focus to the run game where Garcia took the baton and didn’t stop running. The running back broke off four consecutive runs of over 10 yards, including a 20-yarder.
Madera looked to be in control, however a combination of dropped footballs and penalties crippled its chances.
Washington Union took over and orchestrated a deep drive, culminating in a three-yard touchdown run.
The Coyotes fell victim to the big play after quarterback Stephane Dowell and running back Darius McCray each broke off a runs of more than 30 yards. McCray punched it in early in the second quarter to take a 7-0 lead.
After both teams continued to scuffle, the Coyotes took their last opportunity of the first half and showcased how potent the Coyote offense can be.
Nelson dropped back to pass and completed a deep ball to Espinoza for 30 yards before hooking up with him again for a 25-yard touchdown.
Espinoza found himself wide open in the end zone and tied the game at seven just before halftime.
After the break, Madera got the ball and capitalized. Garcia continued to pound the rock, picking up extra yards after each hit.
Nelson, on the other hand found his rhythm, thanks to Espinoza, who continued to find open holes in the defense.
Nelson connected with Espinoza twice for 27 yards and a touchdown. In order to make the scoring grab, Espinoza had to make a slick cut in order to beat his man for the score.
The Panthers immediately responded and took the ensuing kickoff more than 80 yards for the kickoff-return score for a 14-13 second half lead.
Madera wouldn’t be down for long.
The Coyote trio of Nelson, Espinoza and Garcia continued their hot start to the season. The players benefitted from a healthy mixture of both passing and running the football.
Garcia mixed it up on the drive with multiple carries along with a catch out of the backfield. His presence forced Washington Union to respect his ability, allowing Nelson to find his go-to man, Espinoza.
Espinoza had two catches for 30 yards on the Coyotes scoring drive late in the third.
Espinoza and Nelson might’ve driven he team down the field, but Angel Guizar took the plaudits with a strong run between the tackles at the goal line.
He muscled his way through the first defender and found the end zone. Madera could only tack on six though after Brisa Meza’s extra point was blocked once again, but Madera secured the lead, 19-14.
The lead increased in the fourth quarter after Madera put another touchdown on the board to put pressure on the Panthers.
After Madera forced Dowell to fumble, the Coyotes took advantage and marched down the field. Josiah Velasquez took over and rushed twice for 19 yards to set up Garcia’s first touchdown of the night on a goal-line plunge for a 27-14 lead.
Madera’s confidence increased after they forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff to take the ball back after scoring.
It wouldn’t take long for the Coyotes to revisit the end zone. Shortly after taking over, Nelson fired a pass over 40 yards down the field into the waiting arms of Espinoza, who hauled it in on the five-yard line.
Jeremiah Sanchez punched it into the end zone to give the Coyotes a 35-14 lead.
With the game all but over, Madera continued to press on the gas. Nelson lit up the fourth quarter, throwing multiple passes over 40 yards in route to a strong finish for the Coyotes.
With nine minutes left on the clock, the Coyotes had a 42-14 lead after Nelson hit Sanchez for a 54-yard quick pass, which was followed up by Nelson’s five-yard pass to Jevon Denis.
Washington Union pounced on a Coyote fumble in the end zone for a touchdown to close the gap 42-20.
Sanchez capped off the evening with a two-yard run to make it 49-20, giving Madera their first win of the season.
The Coyotes now look to next week where they play Mission Oak in Tulare.