Stallions finish season with win
Benny Munoz/The Madera Tribune
Madera South’s Jessie Ford scores the game-winning touchdown in Friday night’s victory over Reedley. Ford threw for two touchdowns and ran for two touchdowns in the win.
All Madera South football coach Matt Johnson wanted for his players in the season finale last week was to have a positive experience.
“My prayer was not really to win, but to let these kids finish on a high note so they feel good about what’s going on. And they did,” he said.
Johnson’s team overcame a third quarter deficit for a 36-29 victory over North Yosemite League champions and previously undefeated Reedley Pirates on Friday for Homecoming.
“It was the best feeling to see those smiles,” Johnson said.
Although the Stallions were outgained by almost 100 yards (427-332) its resiliency kept them in the game and Jessie Ford’s late touchdown set off the celebration.
The Stallions’ defense was torched most of the night by Reedley’s Ryan Warkentin. He rushed for 252 yards and a touchdown and caught two passes for 36 yards. He accounted for 67 percent of the Pirates’ offense.
However, Madera South’s defense stepped up when it counted the most. Reedley’s final four possessions resulted in a fumble, an interception and two three-and-outs. The second three-and-out led to Madera South’s go-ahead touchdown from Jessie Ford.
“It was unbelievable,” Johnson said. “We’ve been getting some timely little stops. We almost beat Madera with that. We hung in there. I stood on the sideline and thought these guys deserve one of these games.”
The 2021 spring football Stallions finished the season with a 2-2 record, but also went undefeated at the school’s new stadium and provides momentum into the 2021 fall football season.
“We’re a really heavy underclass team,” Johnson said. “We had some seniors step up. We have a great group of young kids that bought into the culture. I couldn’t be happier.”
Tayte Grantham led the Stallions with 130 yards from scrimmage. He rushed for 62 yards and caught two passes for 68 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Ford was 5-of-8 for 118 yards. He threw for two touchdowns and rushed for two more while gaining 60 yards.
The Stallions opened the game by marching 82 yards on six plays to score the first touchdown of the game.
Ford helped the drive with a 14-yard run on second-and-nine. Grantham moved the ball into Reedley territory with a 23-yard run.
From the 37, Ford threw a quick pass to Erik Cervantez in the slot. He eluded a couple of tackles and broke a couple more for a touchdown just 1:39 into the game.
Reedley marched down the field and got a 47-yard run by Warkentin. The Pirates had a first down at the nine-yard line. Alberto Torres and Angelo Moreno stuffed Warkentin for a loss of two. Isaiah Ford and Rudy Valdez stopped Warkentin for a gain of two. On third down, Anthony Arce tackled quarterback Jacob Rocha after a gain of three. On fourth-and-goal from the six, Sergio Garcia stopped Rocha at the one-yard line.
However, three plays later, Ford was pressured and threw the ball away. He was called for intentional grounding in the end zone, which resulted in a safety and two points for the Pirates.
Warkentin returned the ensuing kickoff 44 yards to the 19-yard line. Four plays later, after Reedley converted on third-and-16, the Pirates scored from two yards out. The extra point pass play was intercepted and the Pirates led 8-7 with 1:57 left in the first quarter.
The Stallions answered with a touchdown drive of their own. After an offsides penalty for a first down, Madera South faced a third-and-17 from their own 48. Ford threw a pass to Grantham in the flat. Grantham found some space and split two Reedley defenders down the field for a 52-yard touchdown catch-and-run. Valdez’s extra point gave the Stallions a 14-8 lead 52 seconds into the second quarter.
It took Reedley just two plays to reclaim the lead. Warkentin took a hand-off right through the middle of the Madera South defense for a 59-yard touchdown run just 55 seconds after Madera South took the lead. The extra point was good and Reedley led 15-14.
Madera South fumbled on the next possession and Reedley took over at the Madera South 30-yard line.
Warkentin gained 10 for a first down on the first play. The Pirates completed an 18-yard pass on third-and-16 to move the ball to the eight-yard line.
A bad snap led to a sack by Arce to the 22-yard line. Reedley threw incomplete, but Madera South was called for pass interference. On a second chance, Warkentin gained nine to the two-yard line. On fourth-and-goal, Rocha carried up the middle for the touchdown and a 22-14 lead with 4:48 left in the first half.
The Stallions quickly came back to cut the lead to one. Ford opened the drive with a 16-yard run. Grantham gained another 16 yards. Cervantez carried up the middle and found a crease for a 30-yard gain to the four. Ford scored on the next play and Valdez’s extra point cut the Pirates’ lead to one.
The Pirates were forced to punt on the next drive and the punt went for just 16 yards.
Angelo Moreno opened the drive for five yards. Ford gained three, but was injured on the play. Grantham carried for four and a first down. On the next play, back-up quarterback Jacob Edwards found Christian Marroquin in the front corner of the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown pass with 27 seconds left in the half for a 28-22 lead.
Reedley gained 75 yards on three plays before the end of the first half to put some worry into the Stallions’ defense as the second quarter siren sounded.
The Pirates opened the second half by quickly marching down the field. Rocha hooked up with Chris Sanchez for a 61-yard gain. Warkentin then gained 12 to the three yard line. Rocha finished the drive with a touchdown run just 59 seconds into the second half and Reedley took a 29-28 lead.
“It was like hot knife through butter,” Johnson said. “We knew what they were doing. We weren’t reading our keys or doing things we practiced. We settled them back down. Once that quarterback got banged around a little, their offense was slow-motion Joe.”
The Stallions moved the ball to the 23-yard line, but had to settle for a 40-yard Valdez field goal attempt. His kick was wide and Reedley took over.
Warkentin scored on the first play of the drive. However, a blocking in the back penalty was called. The point of foul penalty put the ball on the Stallions’ 35-yard line, so it was still a 45-yard run by Warkentin.
Rocha gained 10 on the next play for a first down. Warkentin gained 14 more to the 11. Rocha moved the ball to the four for a seven-yard gain. On second-and-three, Diego Talavera stuffed Warkentin for no gain. On third-down, Warkentin slipped for no gain. On fourth-and-goal from the four, Rocha tried to go up the middle. Marroquin stripped Rocha of the ball and Torres recovered in the end zone for a touchback.
Madera South went three-and-out, but the Stallions’ defense also forced a three-and-out.
The Stallions got an initial first down into Reedley territory, but a holding penalty halted the drive and had to punt.
The Stallions’ defense of Jose Velasquez and Valdez forced a Reedley punt, which went for just 16 yards.
The Stallions methodically drove 38 yards for the go-ahead score. Ford gained seven on third-and-four. Cervantez gained 15 to the 10-yard line.
The Stallions were hit with a holding penalty and were moved back to the 17-yard line. On second-and-goal, Ford found Cervantez for 14 yards to the two-yard line.
On the next play, Ford kept the ball and scored up the middle for the touchdown. Ford scrambled and scored the two-point conversion for a 36-29 lead with 3:37 left in the game.
On the second play of Reedley’s next drive, Isaiah Ford stepped in front of a Pirates’ receiver for an interception.
Jessie Ford gained eight on third-and-three for a first down and Moreno put the game away with a 16-yard run. Two Ford kneel downs and the Stallions recorded their second straight victory to close out the 2021 spring campaign.