Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera’s Jacob Garcia, left, celebrates a touchdown with Tommy Molina during Friday’s playoff victory over Fresno.
The Madera Coyotes football team opened its playoff run with a 27-21 victory over the Fresno Warriors in the first round of the Div. III playoffs at Lee DaSilva Field in Memorial Stadium.
For the second week in a row, the Coyotes faced a team that forced them to play away from their strength — throwing the football, but with a complete team like Madera, they will always find a way to adapt.
“Teams have been really focused on defending our pass game so our schemes have been more favorable,” Madera head coach Yosef Fares said. “Our backs are really seeing the holes well and understand the scheme up front. The big guys up front take a ton of pride in being a high preforming unit. They play with chip on their shoulder and are excited to get physical. They are a solid unit.”
Jeremiah Sanchez, Jacob Garcia and Angel Guizar carried the load for the fifth-seeded Coyotes’ running game. The trio eclipsed more than 200 yards to go along with touchdowns from Garcia and Guizar. The latter score by Guizar, came from 25 yards out late in the game to ice it for the home team.
The matchup opened in favor of the 12th seeded Warriors. After a Colt Nelson interception, Fresno capitalized on the Coyotes’ mistake. Warriors’ quarterback Nathaniel Najera connected with Robert Torres for a 13-yard touchdown pass to take an early 7-0 lead.
Fresno’s led wouldn’t last long after John Miranda-Almanza stripped a Fresno ball carrier, giving Madera the momentum back.
The Coyotes orchestrated a nine-play drive at the beginning of the second quarter that featured Garcia and Sanchez, along with the arm of Nelson. Garcia took the plaudits after he crashed into the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown run.
Madera answered once again after Nelson found Joziah Velasquez for an eight-yard score just a drive later. Madera held a 14-7 lead until the Warriors tied the game before halftime.
Alonzo Pollard took a two-yard handoff into the end zone to tie the score at 14.
The Coyotes took the lead in the third quarter, ourtesy of Garcia’s second score of the day. Nelson dropped back where he found his running back for a five-yard score. Madera missed the extra point, but led 20-14.
The Coyotes were satisfied and wanted more. In the fourth quarter, Guizar broke free for a 25-yard touchdown run that effectively iced the game, or so the crowd thought.
With less than four minutes remaining in the game, the Warriors struck on a 60-yard touchdown. Najera found Cameron Brown, who caught that ball at midfield and turned up the field in the blink of an eye, out sprinting every Coyote on the field.
The scoreboard read 27-21 with time still left in the game. Madera needed to run the clock out and that’s exactly what they did. Garcia and Sanchez carried the rock enough to get first downs and run some clock. Nelson ended the game with a couple of kneel downs, ending the Warrior comeback in the process.
Things don’t get easier from here for Madera. After a physical, hard-nosed battle, Madera travels to Visalia to face No. 4 seed Mt. Whitney, an offensive juggernaut similar to the Coyotes in the Div. III quarterfinals in the Mineral King Bowl on Friday. The Pioneers are a team capable of putting up 50 points with ease and a team that scored 60 on the Coyotes last season.
“Mt Whitney is a good football team and can score points,” Fares said. “They put up 77 in the first-round last week. We think we match up well versus them and look forward to the challenge on both sides of the ball.”
Luckily for Madera, they’ve been tested their last few weeks and that can only help prepare them for the battles to come.
“We have been tested all year physically. You can’t go through the CMAC and not come out battle tested,” Fares said. “But the last two weeks have asked us to play a different type of football which required us to be a little more old school and pound teams with the rock. So, it was nice to see that if we have to run the ball we can, and we can do it at high level. It also allows our defense to rest and make adjustments which in turn has produced two solid defensive games.”