Madera South downs Santa Maria to advance
Courtesy of Christopher Cross/The Madera Tribune
Madera South running back Erik Cervantes runs through a tackle and jumps over a defender during Friday’s Div. V playoff victory over Santa Maria.
The Madera South Stallions football team overcame a valiant effort from the Santa Maria Saints to earn a 40-34 victory in the Div. V Central Section Playoffs.
“We’re a resilient bunch,” Madera South head coach Matt Johnson said. “This group has been waiting a long time just to get to the playoffs. They didn’t want to squander this opportunity.”
With the win, the seventh-seeded Stallions earned a quarterfinal match-up with No. 2 Atascadero, who had a first-round bye, on Thursday.
The Stallions got off to a quick start in Friday’s playoff matchup with the 10th- seeded Saints.
Playing in front of their home crowd, the Stallions held a 12-7 lead after the first quarter. Madera South expanded its lead early in the second quarter when Angelo Moreno broke free for an 80-yard touchdown run.
The Saints answered back on their next possession when they marched down the field and capped the drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Edgar Preciado.
With the score 20-14 late in the second quarter, the Stallions were forced to punt the ball back to the visitors.
Looking to add another score before the end of the first half, the Saints converted another fourth down and found themselves in the red zone. The visitors then tacked on a field goal to make the score 20-17 at the break.
Madera South came out swinging in the third quarter, methodically driving down the field and capping the drive with a four-yard touchdown run by Erik Cervantes. With 8:07 left in the third quarter, the Stallions led 27-17.
After forcing a punt on the Saints’ next possession, the Stallions also came up empty on their own drive. The Saints appeared to have another prime scoring opportunity on their next possession. A holding penalty, however, forced Santa Maria to drive back after they had entered the red zone. The drive ended on the next play when Isaiah Ford came up with an interception in front of the end zone.
After the Stallions failed to capitalize on the interception, Santa Maria came back with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Josue Elena to Juan Rico. With 7:39 left in the fourth quarter, the visitors trailed 27-24.
The Stallions offense woke up again when Cervantez ripped off a 42-yard run to set up his team with a goal line opportunity. Moreno finished the drive with a short touchdown run.
As the Saints continued to fight, Preciado came up with a mesmerizing one-hand grab to set up the visitors at the Stallions’ 11-yard line. But the Saints only managed a field goal and still trailed 34-27 with 3:21 left in the fourth.
Santa Maria followed up with an onside kick. The Stallions, however, came prepared and spoiled the attempt. Taking advantage of a short field, the Stallions capped the drive with a nine-yard touchdown run by Moreno.
The Saints answered again with yet another touchdown pass to Preciado. With a minute left, the Saints attempted another onside kick and failed, officially ending their hopes of a comeback.
The Stallions celebrated a playoff victory and a historic moment for head coach Matt Johnson, who earned his 19th victory with the program to break the record for all-time wins at Madera South.
“It’s the playoffs,” Johnson said. “The kids don’t want to turn in their jerseys just yet. They want to continue on. I give full credit to Santa Maria. They were finding spots all over the place. We had to counter with our offense and we did. The big fellas came through up front, our backs ran hard, our quarterback did what he had to do.”
The head coach also gave credit to all the people behind the scenes.
“I’m so proud of the coaches, I’m so proud of our administrators and all the people in Madera that support the Stallions,” he said. “It’s not always pretty, but these kids are going to produce for you every chance they get.”