Three years, three one-possession games, three consecutive wins for the Williams Yellowjackets: 222 Eleventh Street will be the home of the Rice Bowl trophy until at least 2017.
In a game that was billed to be emotionally charged, hard hitting, and tightly contested, Pierce (2-1) and Williams (3-0) delivered on all fronts, but the ‘Jackets prevailed 20-13 over the visiting Pierce Bears in the latest rendition of a storied rivalry game.
“Emotional, passionate –— the guys, I asked them for a huge favor. I told them, we have a poster on the way out and it says, ‘Bleed Brown and Gold.’ Nothing in life can ever replace a heart. No one can buy that, no one can teach that. I asked them, ‘Can you make your heart bleed brown and gold tonight?’” Bautista said. “They came out and played sensational.”
Once again relying on Julius Fisher to lead their rushing attack, Williams out-gained Pierce on the ground, 173 to 139 yards. Most of the ‘Jackets’ yards came from Fisher, who toted the ball 22 times to the tune of 122 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Fisher was held in check by the Bears’ defense for most of the night, averaging only 4 yards per carry until an explosive fourth quarter. He twice came up hobbling with an apparent injury to his lower leg after being tackled — once in the second quarter and once in the fourth. Both times, he went back into the game and came up big for the ‘Jackets.
“I haven’t lost to Pierce at all in high school, and I just came into this game thinking I can’t let that streak end now,” Fisher said. “(My injury) slowed me down a little bit, but I pushed through it. I wasn’t going to let this game slip, no matter what.”
There were penalties aplenty in the 2016 Rice Bowl, on both sides of the ball: 18 of them, to be exact. Seven of those penalties were for either unsportsmanlike conduct or personal fouls, with five going against Williams and two against Pierce.
“You know, with an emotional game like that, sometimes you’ll get those penalties,” Bautista said. “We did have some knucklehead moves, but other than that we did pretty good.”
While Pierce only had two such penalties, one resulted in the ejection of a player on their very first play from scrimmage. In all, Pierce was flagged seven times, which hindered their offensive momentum.
“Honestly, we didn’t play very well at all,” Pierce head coach Don Friel said. “We made too many mistakes. We had drives but then we committed penalties that killed drives. We missed blocks — just flat-out, I don’t think we executed very well. We had too many mental mistakes that just kill you in a game like this.”
Despite the early ejection, Pierce struck first when Dutch Kalfsbeek capped an 80-yard drive with a 36-yard touchdown pass to Jesus Villa, Jr. A flag for celebrating pushed the Bears back on the extra point, and Cruz Delgado was unable to convert on the kick.
The Yellowjackets were forced to punt on their next possession, and the Bears started their ensuing drive at their own 35 yard-line. Pierce ultimately turned the ball over on downs at the Williams 37 yard line, after Fabian Davalos sacked Kalfsbeek twice in four plays.
Five plays later, Fisher came up limping for the first time after back-to-back 5-yard carries. Fisher left the field for a single play, during which sophomore quarterback Hunter Povlsen found Junior Leos in the flat for a 17-yard gain, taking the ‘Jackets to the 19 yard-line. Fisher jumped back in and went to work, rattling off an 18-yard gain before lowering his shoulder for a 1-yard touchdown.
Leos, playing at fullback, added a two points to put Williams ahead 8-6 with 2:50 remaining in the first half.
That score would stand until halfway through the third quarter. Punting from his own 25 yard-line on 4th and 20, Villa saw some room and attempted to run for a first down, but was tackled after an 8-yard gain. A penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct against Pierce gave Williams the ball at the Pierce 18 yard-line.
On 3rd and goal from the 3 yard-line, Diego Carreno spun his way through multiple tackles and into the end-zone. Williams went for two on the extra point and failed to convert, putting them ahead 14-6 with 6:53 remaining in the third quarter.
An interception and a fumble would derail Pierce’s next two drives. With 10:28 remaining in the game, Williams started with the ball at midfield, and Fisher — who had largely been held in check to this point -— rattled off carries of 6 and 12 yards before sprinting 32 yards for a touchdown. Williams failed to convert the two-point attempt, making the score 20-6 in favor of the ‘Jackets.
The Bears answered back quickly, as Dutch Kalfsbeek hooked up with Sergio Saavedra for 41 yards through the air on 1st and 10 from his own 25 yard-line. A personal foul against Williams made it 1st and 10 at the Williams 21 yard-line. Kalfsbeek threw a screen to Raphael Delgado, who broke a few tackles on his way to the end-zone. Cruz Delgado converted the extra point, and Pierce was back within a single possession, down 20-13.
Pierce caught Williams off-guard with a surprise onside kick, but the ball bounced off the hands of a Pierce player and Williams was able to fall on the ball.
The Bears’ defense proceeded to come up big, stopping the ‘Jackets on 4th and inches at the Pierce 40 yard-line. The next play, Kalfsbeek narrowly missed a streaking Saavedra deep down the field. After converting for a first down, the Bears would fail to convert on 4th and 4 at the Williams 38 yard-line, and the ‘Jackets would run out the clock for the win.
The Bears’ rushing attack was held in check by the Yellowjackets throughout the contest: Pierce ran the ball 41 times and averaged only 3.4 yards per carry. The Bears’ 139 yards on the ground was less than half of their average through two games.
Pierce’s passing attack accounted for nearly half of their total yardage, as Kalfsbeek finished the game 8/14 for 129 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception. The Bears’ quarterback was unable to hook up with Cole Travis, who had been his favorite target in previous weeks. Saavedra stepped in to lead the Bears in receptions (3) and yardage (53) this week, adding 45 yards rushing on 7 carries. Villa and Raphael Delgado hauled in the Bears two scores through the air, and combined for 62 yards receiving.
Levi Kalfsbeek led the Bears in carries (11) and was second in yardage (35) to Saavedra.
Povlsen finished 4/11 for 67 yards for Williams, hooking up with Leos three times for 39 yards and once with Juan Fernandez for 28 yards. In addition to Fisher, five players had a total of 16 carries for the ‘Jackets. Leos, Fernandez, Povlsen, Carreno and Eduardo Ramirez combined for 51 yards on the ground. Carreno scored once for Williams, and Leos had a two-point conversion.
Pierce’s junior varsity team defeated Williams 31-14.
This week, Pierce will play East Nicolaus (3-0) at 7 PM on Friday.
“We’re walking into a freight train,” Friel said. “I just told my kids, if you want to play, be ready to play on Monday. If we play like we did tonight, it’s going to get ugly in a heartbeat. East Nic is a good team, and probably the best we’re going to face.”
Williams also faces a tough challenge this week against Willows (3-0), who are fresh of a 54-0 win over Las Plumas. The ‘Jackets will host the Honkers at McCarl Field at 7:30 PM.