Through two quarters of play in Arbuckle on Friday night, there was nothing to separate the Pierce Bears varsity football team from an undefeated Winters squad – and their hopes of capturing at least a share of the Sacramento Valley League crown were still very much alive.
After allowing a quick score on Winters’ game-opening drive, Pierce’s defense kept the Warriors potent offense – which scored 28 first-half points against Colusa the week before – largely in check. Despite struggling on offense throughout the first and second quarters – Pierce only crossed midfield once in three first-half drives – quarterback Ramon Paiz connected with Gabe Villa for a 45-yard scoring strike, to knot the score at 7-7. Pierce’s defense came up with a huge fourth-down stop – Luke Voorhees and Alex Tapia sacked Winters quarterback Daniel Carrion at the Bears’ 19-yard line – as time expired in the second quarter to keep the score tied heading into the intermission.
After halftime, things unraveled quickly for the Bears, who were undone largely by their own mistakes – including a litany of turnovers and pair of ejections – but also by the stellar second-half play of senior Winters quarterback Daniel Carrion.
“The biggest message I told them was we got put in situations where our guys lost our heads,” head coach Anthony Tapia said after the game. “I said that no matter how crazy the atmosphere is, no matter how big the game is, that’s the kind of stuff I want to see us improve on… You saw it in the first half – it was two different stories in each half… It was a hard-fought game, but we definitely shot ourselves in the foot.”
The third quarter was especially brutal for the Bears. Pierce received the kickoff to open the second half, but fumbled on the return, setting the Warriors offense up with a short field. A few plays later, Carrion scrambled in for a touchdown, and the extra point put Winters up 14-7. Pierce fumbled away possession again near midfield just a few plays into their ensuing drive. Carrion quickly pushed the Warriors deep into Pierce territory with a long scramble, and third-and-seven from Pierce’s 16-yard line, wide receiver Atlas Martinez hauled in a Carrion touchdown pass to put the Warriors up 21-7.
Pierce turned the ball over on an interception on their very next play from scrimmage, giving Winters the ball near midfield again. The Warriors saw a 24-yard gain wiped out by a clipping penalty on first down, before running back Dalton Lowrie was stuffed for no gain and Carrion threw an incompletion, setting the Warriors up with a third-and-long at their own 30-yard line. Winters was pushed back ten more yards by a pair of penalties – one for delay of game, the other for a false start. After those penalties, the Warriors needed to gain 39 yards for a first down. Carrion got that and then some, gashing the Bears defense for 65 yards on a scramble and setting his team up with a first down at Pierce’s 15-yard line.
Two plays later, Pierce’s defense gave the Bears another chance: Voorhees forced a Carrion fumble as he scrambled toward the end-zone, and Eduardo Ambriz recovered it at Pierce’s 1-yard line.
But the costly mistakes continued for the Bears: on the very next play, Pierce fumbled away possession on a botched snap exchange, immediately giving Winters the ball back on 1-yard line. Carrion scored on a quarterback keeper two plays later, and the Warriors went up 28-7.
Pierce turned the ball over once again on the following kickoff return, this time giving Winters the ball at Pierce’s 37-yard line. During the Warriors’ drive that followed, two Pierce players were ejected from the game on the same play, and were each flagged for personal fouls. The resulting 30 penalty yards pushed the Warriors to Pierce’s 21-yard line, with time winding down in the third quarter. The Warriors drive stalled at Pierce’s 5-yard line, and Ivan Santana booted a 22-yard field goal to put Winters up 31-7, where the score would remain the rest of the game. ■