Coyotes upended on Senior Night
Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera’s Adam Landero intercepts the Bullard Knights and returns the ball downfield as he’s escorted by a pack of Coyotes.
Despite forcing three red-zone turnovers in the first half, the Madera Coyotes football team was unable to keep up in a 55-17 loss to the Bullard-Fresno Knights last Friday night at Memorial Stadium.
On the night honoring the senior class, it was fitting that seniors Logan Wattenbarger and Beau Green shined the brightest for the Coyotes.
Wattenbarger finished the game with nearly 200 yards receiving and two touchdowns including a 75-yard catch and run, while Green tallied two touchdowns to go along with nearly 250 yards passing.
“We came out and we competed. I thought defensively we came out and forced turnovers in the first quarter and those where huge momentum swings. We just didn’t capitalize on them, we missed out big-play shot,” Madera head coach Kenny Paolinelli said. “We had our opportunities to take our shots, we knew what defense they would be running and it was something that we worked on all week.
“We just didn’t hit our shots. Hitting on a big play can be uplifting but at the same time missing can be take the air out of your tires.”
The Coyotes’ senior class proved their worth on the field time and time again throughout their tenure at Madera High, but for Paolinelli, this specific group has a special place in his heart.
Managing the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainties that plagued the program could’ve been an obstacle but Madera’s senior class not only overcame, they thrived.
“It’s really hard to put into words what these guys mean to me. This group and I share a special bond, just because of what we went through as a group,” Paolinelli said. “Just getting through the whole COVID period of ‘are we going to play today?’ or ‘can we practice today?’ and all of these hoops we had to jump through.
“It’s really a testament to these kids with all of the adversity that they faced. All of the comradery that was built between them as players and the trust they had in me as the coach. They showed up every day and were committed to something that they didn’t know they were going to get half the time, but they stayed true to each other and this football team and that’s what our family is all about.”
The Coyotes got off to a strong start defensively against one of the top teams in the County/Metro Athletic Conference. Tough in the trenches and stout in the secondary, Madera was more than ready for the challenge.
Bullard took 10 plays on its opening possession, threatening the Coyotes end zone.
But, as he’s done all season long, Madera’s Adam Landero stepped up and made a momentum-changing play. Landero combined his smarts with his natural ball skills to intercept Bullard’s Roland Russo near the end zone.
Landero brought the ball out to the 12-yard line, giving Green and company the ball for the first time with almost eight minutes left in the first quarter.
A Madera three-and-out followed the Landero interception, and out trotted the Coyotes’ defense who seemed eager to bring the ball back to the offense.
Just four plays later, Landero comes up clutch once again. Bullard’s Jalyn Utendaal was gang tackled and subsequently lost the ball as the Coyotes converged on the Knights ball carrier.
Green brought his offense back out onto the field.
Madera strung together five plays together that featured Jason Escobar on the ground and Wattenbarger in the air, however Green’s pass was later picked off and returned to the end zone for the opening touchdown of the contest.
The Knights added a second touchdown in the first quarter to push the lead to 14 unanswered.
The Coyotes retook possession and unfortunately for Paolinelli’s offense, sustaining drives was a challenge.
A first down run with Escobar for 11 yards was all the Coyotes could muster as they retook possession down 14-0.
The Coyotes later punted after the initial first down run.
Six plays later as the Knights were breathing down the Coyotes’ necks once again, two-way star Wattenbarger put a stop to Bullard’s red-zone drive.
Wattenbarger with an eye on his man and another on Russo, jumped the passing lane inside the end zone with one hand, pulling the ball into his chest and running out to the 17-yard line.
The Coyotes’ senior might be known for his big-play ability on offense, but his athleticism and ball skills in general translate to both sides effectively.
Green took the Coyotes’ offense down the field, setting up Lozano for a 32-yard field goal to put the Coyotes on the board 14-3.
Madera’s newfound momentum unfortunately was short lived as the Knights drove down the field the following possession, scoring six behind Herman Zamora’s 8-yard run.
Down 20-3 after Bullard missed the point after, Madera kept the Knights off the scoreboard for the rest of the first half.
Despite two passing touchdowns to Wattenbarger in the second half, including a 75-yard bomb, the Coyotes were unable to match the Knights firepower as they scored 35-second half points.
The Coyotes now turn their attention to next-door rivals Madera South before the 2021 postseason schedule is announced.