Apaches’ second half downs Coyotes
Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Jayson Ruiz and Julian Flores (54) make a tackle on a Sanger ball carrier.
With homecoming in full swing, along with the return of star quarterback Beau Green, the Madera Coyotes football team was eager to put on a show in front of a packed house.
With the reigning County/Metro Athletic Conference champions in the house, the atmosphere was electric and the game was a dogfight from beginning to end.
However, after a strong first half holding Sanger to seven points, the Apaches scored 21 unanswered en route to a 35-7 victory at Memorial Stadium on Friday.
Green led the Coyotes after missing the past few weeks with a knee injury with 183 yards passing and a touchdown.
The Coyote gunslinger came out firing on the first play of the game as he went deep, looking for a score to open the contest. The ball landed incomplete, but the play was indicative of the senior’s mentality.
Tailback Jason Escobar led the way for Madera on the ground with 42 yards on 15 carries. The young Coyote showcased his toughness and vision throughout the evening against one of the top teams in the CMAC.
Madera, as a whole, matched the Apaches throughout the first half, holding the reining CMAC champions to a touchdown.
“I thought we did an excellent job executing our game plan in the first half defensively, and I thought our drives went really well offensively. We were making plays and just the mental mistakes were there; a miscue offensively, maybe a misread on defense, those types of things just can’t happen,” Madera Coyotes head coach Kenny Paolinelli said.
“We have to finish drives in the red zone and that’s been a main focus we’ve been talking about. We’ve been working live red zone drills and it’s frustrating, but we know how hard these kids work and we know we are a good football team.”
The Coyotes have flashed just how good they can be when healthy. Big wins over Kerman and Selma and, despite not having their leader and quarterback Green, the Coyotes never backed down against some of the top teams in the CMAC including San Joaquin-Memorial and non-league opponents Hanford, Merced and El Diamante-Visalia.
For Paolinelli, when the Coyotes can play mistake-free football, Madera can play with anyone.
“I think there is just two to three times a game where we just have a mistake and it just hurts us,” Paolinell explained.
However, with the regular season nearing the end, the Coyotes are learning and getting better each week. With the Edison-Fresno Tigers, Bullard-Fresno Knights and next door rivals Madera South on the docket, the Coyotes have to move on, yet take the lessons learned against Sanger.
“For us to go toe-to-toe with them, proves that we can play with anyone. That is a big boost for our guys because we know we are a good football team, it’s about putting it all together on the field,” Paolinelli said.
True to form, the Coyotes came out swinging with Green back behind center.
Green dropped back to pass before sending a ball over 30 yards down the field to standout receiver Logan Wattenbarger. The Coyote senior was unable to haul in the deep ball as he was grabbed by the Apache defender, resulting in a pass interference call.
Wattenbarger didn’t haul in the pass but connected on a 49-yard pass late in the game that led to the Coyotes’ lone score on the night. The senior finished the night 113 yards receiving on six catches.
With the 15-yard penalty, the Coyotes put together an 11-play drive that ended with an interception in the end zone. Despite the early turnover, the Coyotes flashed, not only their ability to hit on deep plays, but also the ability to methodically move down the field mixing in the short passing game and the run game as well.
Ramon Ruiz was a bright spot early for Green and the Coyotes offense but an unfortunate injury led to his departure. Madera’s Jaden Gaeta stepped in and performed well for the Coyotes multidimensional offense.
Madera and Sanger traded possessions throughout the first quarter until the Apaches found the breakthrough in the second quarter.
After the Coyotes failed to convert in the final minute of the first quarter, the Apaches took over just as the game entered the second quarter.
Nine straight rushes by the Apaches saw the visitors take a 7-0 lead.
Although up by a single score, the Coyotes offense and defense were matching the Apaches but simple mistakes cost the Coyotes throughout.
Sanger scored 28 unanswered points before Green and Wattenbarger connect first on a 49-yard pass that set the Coyotes up inside the Sanger red zone.
Green then connected on three straight passes, culminating in a short touchdown pass to Wattenbarger, cutting the deficit 28-7.
Sanger added a late score 35-7, icing the game.
The Coyotes now turn their attention to the Edison Tigers.