Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera quarterback David Zavala turns the corner during a run while Marco Lopez looks for someone to block.
FRESNO — The Madera Coyotes football team responded often as the Edison-Fresno Tigers made several big plays, but their effort wasn’t enough in the end.
The Tigers’ offense stayed in rhythm from the start and held off the Coyotes to win 44-36 at Sunnyside Stadium in Fresno on Thursday.
Madera trailed 23-21 at halftime, but failed to score in the third quarter and allowed the Tigers to build a nine-point lead.
“It was a lack of execution on our part, offensively, but I don’t think they pulled away,” Madera head coach Kenny Paolinelli said. “They controlled the clock. They got some chunk plays on us and held the ball away from us for a little bit.”
David Zavala, who replaced quarterback Isaiah Martinez in the second half, led the Coyotes in a fourth-quarter comeback effort.
Zavala found Raul Medrano for a nine-yard touchdown pass late in the game, then converted a two-point conversion to cut the Tigers’ lead to eight points.
Edison took possession with 2:54 left in the fourth quarter and killed the remaining time to seal the win.
“Zavala came in there and gave us a spark at quarterback,” Paolinelli said. “Both of our quarterbacks played well tonight. Martinez gives us running and throwing the football and Zavala is more of a pure passer, but he also has the legs.”
Madera scored the first touchdown of the game when they marched down the field on the opening drive and scored on a five-yard carry by Jeremiah Sanchez.
The Tigers’ then came right back, with Myles Lee making a 30-yard catch and capping the drive with a five-yard touchdown run.
Madera struck first in the second quarter when Dominic Smith caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Martinez, giving the Coyotes a 14-10 lead.
Again, Edison answered. This time Jermaine Fuller Jr. bursted a 30-yard run to set up a 12-yard touchdown catch by Dezjohn Malone in the corner of the end-zone.
The back-and-forth affair continued when Sanchez punched it in from two yards, giving the Coyotes a 21-16 lead.
Velltray Jefferson came up with another big play for the Tigers on the next drive, catching a 37-yard pass from quarterback Justin Klair. The drive finished with Jefferson taking it in from nine yards out, giving the Tigers a 23-21 lead at halftime.
Edison’s Glen Phason made a 23-yard and a 15-yard catch to start the second half. Myles Lee then ran for 10 more yards. The drive, however, ended with a turnover on downs inside the 20-yard line.
The Tigers got the ball back with an interception by Jefferson, setting up at the Madera 24-yard line.
Fuller then carried the ball to the three-yard line and finished the drive with a short touchdown run, giving the Tigers a 30-21 lead in the third quarter.
Madera’s Jonathan Ramirez kept the Coyotes’ hope alive when he scored on 65-yard catch-and-run.
“This time they have proven that they’re going to fight for four quarters,” Paolinelli said. “We pride ourselves on that, so it was good to see them continue that.”
Edison quarterback Ian Miller found Tyrese Fairely for a 30-yard play on the next drive, setting up the Tigers at the eight-yard line. The Coyotes defense, however, did its job at the goal line and forced a turnover on downs.
Still, the Coyotes’ offense gave the ball right back after failing to convert on fourth down.
Edison took over at the Madera nine-yard line and scored with a nine-yard pass from Miller to Velltray Jefferson.
That was all the Tigers needed to clinch the win.
“That’s a very good, athletic team,” Paolinelli said. “I was proud of the way we fought. Obviously not the result we want, but that’s part of building it. You gotta take your lumps on your way to success.”