Comeback effort falls short


Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune

Madera’s Ramon Ruiz runs behind the block of Jeremiah Sanchez during Friday’s loss to the Clovis Cougars.

After trailing 29-0 at halftime against the Clovis Cougars, the Madera Coyotes football team showed some life in the second half.


The resilient Coyotes started the comeback effort with a 10-yard touchdown catch by Raul Medrano. Madera struck again when David Zavala connected on a 53-yard pass to Medrano, making it 29-12.


Clovis junior Nic Viau squashed the momentum with an electrifying 75-yard kickoff return, scoring his second touchdown of the game to help seal the Cougars’ 46-26 win at Memorial Stadium on Friday.


“We didn’t stay in our lanes, we didn’t contain the ball and we had three missed tackles on one play and that’s usually a recipe for disaster,” Madera head coach Kenny Paolinelli said. “When you give up momentum plays, it can swing the momentum either way for good or bad. In that situation, it swung bad for us.”


Still, the Coyotes drove into the redzone on the next possession and set themselves up with a goal line opportunity after two consecutive runs from Jeremiah Sanchez. Logan Wattenbarger punched it from a yard out for the Coyotes, who trailed 36-18 after missing the 2-point attempt in the final seconds of the third quarter.


The Cougars responded with their own goalline conversion early in the fourth quarter to push the lead to 43-18.


The Coyotes, once again, found themselves in the red zone a short time later. But Madera faced a 3rd-and-19 after Zavala took a sack. The drive ended with a turnover on downs as the Cougars broke up a pass to Wattenbarger in the end zone.


Clovis methodically drove down the field on its next possession and ate up much of the remaining time, tacking on a field goal in the final minute to make it 46-18.


Fighting till the last second, the Coyotes scored when Zavala found Medrano in the end zone one more time. Madera then converted a two-point conversion to score the game’s final points.


“It was an adjustment of our attitude,” Paolinelli said about his team’s second half effort. “I was happy with how we competed in the second half.”


Clovis found its first touchdown of the game when Nate Johnson scored on an 11-yard-run with 8:49 left in the first quarter. Less than two minutes later, Johnson found Viau to make it 14-0. The early domination continued when the Cougars connected for another touchdown and a two-point conversation, making it 22-0.


“They came out and they punched us in the mouth,” Paolinelli said. “They’re a very good football team. They’re really well-coached and they’re very physical.”


While the pandemic forced students-athletes to take an extended break from sports, Paolinelli expects his team to overcome the challenges of the past year and return to form.


“Adversity is the norm for these kids,” Paolinelli said. “They know how to deal with it. We’ll bounce back and we’ll be ready to play next week just because we love the fact that we’re getting an opportunity to compete every week.”

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