Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera South quarterback Isaiah Tyler (5) celebrates with Jackson Smith after Tyler rushed for one of his three touchdowns in Friday’s 42-21 victory over Wasco.
The Madera South Stallions hadn’t won a football game since Sept. 8, 2017.
That two-year losing streak finally ended Friday night, with a 42-21 win at home against the Wasco Tigers
Matt Johnson was in his first year as the Stallions’ head coach when his team beat Hoover in 2017, which was their only win in the last two seasons.
Searching for answers after a winless season last year, Johnson came up with three words to preach to his team.
“I came up with accountable, compete and effort,” Johnson said. “Be accountable for yourself, compete every day, give unmatched effort and good things are gonna happen.”
Good things indeed happened for the Stallions against Wasco, thanks in large part to 272 yards in the running game.
Madera South running back Marvin Brewer set the tone early, rushing for a 15-yard touchdown to give the Stallions a 6-0 lead. Brewer added two more touchdown runs on the night.
The Stallions, who were coming off a 43-7 loss against Kerman, kept the offense rolling all night against Wasco.
“The offense showed up tonight. That’s what was missing against Kerman,” Johnson said. “They went to work tonight. They were embarrassed against Kerman.”
Quarterback Isaiah Tyler was also a big reason for the Stallions’ success in the running game.
Tyler scored on a 35-yard run in the first quarter, helping the Stallions extend their lead to 14-0.
With Madera South leading 14-7 in the second quarter, Tyler ran for a 60-yard touchdown to give the Stallions a 21-7 lead.
Tyler’s third touchdown run came in the third quarter when he took it in from two yards out, putting the Stallions up 28-14.
Johnson said the Stallions had problems with their snaps against Kerman, but they worked on rhythm and timing throughout the week and it paid off against Wasco.
“We had 39 plays on offense against Kerman. Twenty were bad snaps,” Johnson said. “When you’re fumbling the ball off the ground, you have no chance. These snaps were much better. We worked on it all week.”
Coming into Friday’s matchup, Wasco’s running game had been well-documented. Particularly with running back Christian Alvarez in the backfield, the Stallions’ defense had to bring its best effort.
Alvarez had some big moments, as expected, but Johnson said he was happy with the Stallions’ effort on defense.
“[Wasco] came in rolling on people,” Johnson said. “It’s very difficult because when you think you got it all figured out, they come some other way. Our guys were disciplined, stayed where they’re supposed to be. They got us on a couple cheapies, but my goal was to hold these guys to 21 points.”
Wasco’s Kevin Chavez had the Tiger’s first big run of the night in the second quarter, bursting for 35 yards and setting up the offense at the 1-yard line. Alvarez took it from there and scored the Tigers’ first touchdown of the game.
Alvarez found the endzone again later in the second quarter. This time it was a 12-yard run which gave the Tigers their second touchdown of the game and made the score 21-14.
Wasco had a chance to add more points in the final seconds of the second quarter, but their field goal attempt was blocked, sending the teams to halftime with the Stallions leading.
Johnson said it was just the kind of challenge Madera South needed against Wasco, who plays in Division 4.
“This is a big win,” Johnson said. “That’s a great football team at Wasco, one of the top teams in Division 4.”
The Stallions had an even greater task in the second half as Wasco threatened to get back in the game, but the defense rose to the challenge and the offense finished the job.
Kevin Chavez kicked off the Tigers’ comeback effort in the fourth quarter, returning a fumble for a 60-yard touchdown to cut the Stallions’ lead to 35-21.
The Tigers followed up with an onside recovery, helping them start a drive at midfield.
Wasco’s momentum, however, came to an end with 7:48 left in the fourth quarter when Jessie Ford came up with an interception in the end zone to give the ball back to the Stallions.
Johnson wasn’t surprised to see the interception from Ford, who did exactly what the coaches told him to do.
“That’s Jessie Ford, taking coaching, listening to it,” Johnson said. “We talked to him the play before about what he’s gonna do and he did it like it like a pro. Roughed up that wing on the edge, didn’t give him a free release and then I told him to trail him and go high-point the ball and get us the ball back, because we figured that’s where they’re gonna go and he was right on.”
Wasco got another possession with four minutes left in the game, but they found themselves in a fourth-and-14 after a sack, leading to a failed fourth down conversion.
With two minutes left, Brewer converted a first down to help the Stallion eat up some more clock. Brewer then took it in from 14 yards out to give his team a 42-21 lead.
Johnson said the coaching staff came together last spring and highlighted what the team needs.
“Coach Anthony Gallegos and the other coaches, but mainly with the spiritual guidance of Anthony Gallegos, talked about we need to find who we are. What’s our philosophy?” Johnson said.
Against Wasco, Johnson saw an identity from his team.
“We got a long way to go, but this was the combination of all those things coming together,” Johnson said. “I’m so proud of them.”
The win was especially gratifying for the seniors, who had seen nothing but losing since their sophomore year.
“We came in my first year and started a lot of sophomores. Those guys are now seniors and they had to sit through this stuff,” Johnson said. “It’s amazing. It’s a tribute to our school district. It’s a tribute to the administration and to everyone else who continues to support athletics in Madera, whether it’s the Coyotes or us. They give us the tools. Our job is to coach them and keep them on track and I think it’s starting to pay off.”