Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
While Madera South’s Jackson Smith (42) signals safety, his teammates Christopher Antunez (72) and Matt Bolanos (44) tackle Edison’s Jadarious Jackson in the end zone for the safety late in Thursday’s loss to the Tigers.
FRESNO — Late in its County/Metro Athletic Conference-opening game against the Edison-Fresno Tigers, one of the Madera South football team’s coaches said they were a six-minute drive away from a win.
The Stallions trailed 27-21 at the time and were staying with the Tigers. However, Madera South went three-and-out. Edison scored a touchdown and added a pick-six with 40 seconds left for a 40-23 victory Thursday.
“That was a ball game,” Edison head coach Matt Johnson said. “It came down to six minutes left. We have to be better with ball security and finish drives off. I’m extremely proud of my team. We’re not a football team that is not going to go backwards when things go against us. We’re going to keep rising to the next challenge and they showed that tonight.”
“I can’t explain how proud I am of my team,” junior defensive back Alberto Torres said. “We played excellent today. Our offense was doing good and our defense was outstanding. We bounced back and we continued to roll. We have a totally different atmosphere than last year’s team.”
The Stallions found themselves trailing 20-7 after the first half and 27-14 at halftime, but still had a chance at the end of the game.
“There’s no way in the big picture you would think a bunch of youngsters from Madera could do battle with that group, but we did,” Johnson said. “That’s a tribute to our district and administration that give us the tools and our job is to coach them up to learn that valuable life lesson. When your back is far against the wall, you keep battling and battling. The scoreboard doesn’t mean anything to me. It means everything to me is that we are improving in the middle part of our season.”
The Stallions’ defense stepped up for the second straight game. They held the Tigers to just 94 yards on the ground. They held Edison’s lead back, Miles Lee to 56 yards on 20 carries. Seven of Lee’s carries went for negative yards and seven more went for two yards or less.
“We gave up seven points on defense in the second half,” Johnson said. “We’re not trying to get a moral victory. Our district expects us to knock someone off in the CMAC. Tonight, it started feeling magical as that game went on. I thought this was the one that we finally got over the hurdle to get a CMAC team.”
One of the players that earned the respect of the Edison players was Torres, who was continually told by Edison players he played his heart out.
“It’s an honor to get the respect from those athletes,” Torres said. “They are going to Div. I colleges. It’s a blessing to know learn from those people. For me to play hard, it shows I can play with them too.”
Edison let go of head coach Atnaf Harris after the game. Edison’s athletic director and offensive coordinator became interim head coaches.
After a three-and-out for the Stallions, Edison scored on a 17-yard pass play on a skinny post after a nine-play, 57-yard drive.
The Stallions couldn’t get anything going in their first three drives. They ran nine plays for nine yards.
Edison scored touchdowns on both of those drives to take a 20-0 lead.
Torres returned the ensuing kickoff 21 yards to the 45-yard lines. Quarterback Isaiah Tyler, on a fake hand-off to Tayte Grantham, kept the ball and split the Edison defense for a 55-yard touchdown run. Anthony Vaca’s extra point cut the lead to 13 with 40 seconds left in the first quarter.
Edison got two initial first downs on its next drive, but turned the ball over on downs from the Stallions’ 37-yard line.
The Stallions ran the ball on seven straight plays to score their second touchdown. Tyler carried the ball six times on the drive, including the touchdown from a yard out. The key play in the drive was a personal foul penalty on Edison after Tyler was tackled for a four-yard loss. The second key play was a 20-yard pass to Angel Mendez to the one-yard line and Tyler scored on the next play to cut the lead to six.
Keyed by a 25-yard pass play to the three-yard line, Lee scored from a yard out for a 27-14 lead heading into halftime.
The Stallions forced a punt on Edison’s first drive of the second half. Anthony Vaca tackled Lee for a loss of four and Edison was called for a person foul that nullified a 40-yard touchdown run.
Despite a 25-yard run from Tyler, the Stallions were forced to punt.
Tackles by Jaden Cisneros, Vaca and Anthony Arce forced another Edison punt. The Stallions punted on the next drive, as well.
The Tigers tried to put the game away by going for a first down on fourth-and-three from the Stallions’ 25-yard line, but Lee was stuffed by Cisneros and Erwin Reyes for a four-yard loss.
Three plays later, Grantham got loose and struck for a 67-yard touchdown run behind a big block from Elgar Garcia to close the third quarter closing the lead to 27-21.
Three plays later, tackles by Vaca and Jesse Ford forced another Edison punt, but the Stallions fumbled the ball to the Tigers six plays later.
However, the Stallions’ defense stepped up again, forcing another punt. A Jackson Smith tackle and an Arce quarterback pressure forced the punt to the Stallions’ 20-yard line with 6:32 left in the game.
However, the Stallions went three-and-out.
The Tigers scored four plays later on a 38-yard touchdown catch-and-run to take a 34-21 lead.
The Stallions tried to get back into the game on the next drive. Tyler hit Marvin Brewer for a 20-yard gain. However, on fourth-and-eight, Tyler was picked off at the one-yard line.
Madera South’s defense, again, showed its promise with another big play. Matt Bolanos and Christopher Antunez stuffed Edison in the end zone for a safety with 41 seconds left in the game for a 34-23 Edison lead.
Unfortunately, on the first play of the next drive, on a reverse pass, Arce threw the ball down the field and was picked off.
Edison returned the interception 80 yards for a touchdown with 15 seconds left to secure a 40-28 victory.