The Pierce Bears earned their first Rice Bowl victory in four years on Friday, dismantling the visiting Williams Yellowjackets 49-24 on Gregg LeMaster Field.
The 87th installment of the rivalry between the two Colusa County schools, separated by just ten miles on Interstate 5, was as heated as ever: There were a total of 21 flags thrown throughout the game, a number of which were personal fouls. Pierce had a starting lineman ejected in the first quarter after the referees said he threw a punch, and then nearly had their head coach ejected in the third quarter.
While Pierce ended up walking away with the victory and was dominant on both sides of the ball, the Yellowjackets were able to capitalize on a few first-half miscues by the Bears – including a first-quarter interception and two penalties with time winding down in the second quarter – to keep the game close early on.
“We were emotional in the beginning – we were hurting ourselves,” Barber said after the game. “I mean, there was no reason for them to be in the game in the first half.”
Barber specifically pointed to Williams’ final drive of the second quarter, during which the Bears committed two big penalties to put the Yellowjackets in position to score. On first-and-10 from their own 43-yard line, with just 24 seconds remaining in the half, Williams’ Hunter Povlsen threw an incomplete pass deep down the sideline to his left, and Pierce was called for pass interference. Three plays later, Pierce was called for roughing the passer after another incompletion, this time with just six seconds remaining. The penalty set Williams up at Pierce’s 20-yard line. After throwing an incompletion and with just three seconds remaining, Povlsen dropped back again, scrambled and connected with Daniel Davalos in the middle of the field. Davalos made a man miss and scampered into the end zone as time expired, putting the score at 21-12 heading into the intermission.
“They score on two penalties, and we don’t make a tackle,” Barber said. “It should not have been that close at all, really. It’s just one of those things we have to work on, just cleaning it up. We knew we were going to dominate this game, but we tried hard in the first half to blow it. But this is a resilient group, for sure.”
The game got off to an auspicious start for Pierce, who held Williams to a three-and-out on their opening possession. After a punt, Pierce took possession at their own 26-yard line. It took just three plays for the Bears to score, as quarterback Dutch Kalfsbeek outran the entire Williams defense for a 72-yard touchdown on a quarterback keeper, putting Pierce up 7-0 after the extra point, with 9:16 remaining in the first quarter.
Pierce’s defense followed up by forcing another three-and-out, and their offense took over at their own 36-yard line. After a short run by Curtis Vaughn, Dutch Kalfsbeek was intercepted by Yellowjackets’ defensive back Erik Ruiz, who snagged the interception near Williams’ 45 yard line. Ruiz nearly returned the interception for a score, but Kalfsbeek ran him down at the 2-yard line. A personal foul on the return moved the ball half the distance to the goal and resulted in an ejection for Pierce, and Williams fullback Miguel Boites plunged in for a 1-yard touchdown. Williams was unsuccessful on the two-point attempt, bringing the score to 7-6.
The Bears offense got on the scoreboard again with under a minute left to go in the first quarter, as Kalfsbeek scored from one yard out to cap a seven-play, 80-yard drive.
They again found the end-zone in the latter goings of the second quarter, marching 52 yards in 11 plays before Vaughn rumbled in from five yards out for a score. After the extra point, Pierce was up 21-6 with just 3:15 left to play in the second quarter. Then came Williams’ next drive and the costly Pierce penalties, which brought the Yellowjackets back within striking distance at the half, 21-12.
The third quarter brought a total of five touchdowns – three for the Bears and two for Williams – the first of which came on Pierce’s first play from scrimmage after halftime. On first-and-10 from his own 20-yard line, Kalfsbeek found a wide open Gabe Villa deep down the middle of the field for an 80-yard score to put his team up 28-12. Williams answered right back, capping an eight-play, 81-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Povlsen to Davalos – the pair’s second of the night. Williams failed to convert on the two-point attempt and remained behind 28-18.
On the ensuing kickoff, Kalfsbeek fielded the kick and sprinted for an apparent 84-yard touchdown return, but the play was called back due to a block in the back. Two more flags were thrown for unsportsmanlike conduct after Barber argued the call with one of the referees. Initially, the referee appeared to motion for Barber’s ejection, but after a conference between the officials, they decided against the ejection. The series of penalties pushed Pierce back to their own 15-yard line, and they were forced to punt five plays later, when their drive stalled at their 34-yard line.
On Williams’ ensuing drive, Daniel Castaneda and Gabe Villa stepped up in a big way for the Bears on defense. Castaneda sacked Povlsen for a 9-yard loss on second down, and the Yellowjackets committed back-to-back false starts to give them a third-and-long. Povlsen, forced to push the ball down the field, was intercepted by Villa, which gave Pierce good field position at the Williams 40-yard line. After Vaughn rumbled for six yards on first down, Villa followed his great defensive play with one on offense, sprinting 34 yards for a score to put Pierce up 35-18. Pierce’s stinginess on defense, and Williams’ penalty woes continued on the next possession. After a false start on first down, Povlsen was sacked by Hector Rodriguez on back to back plays, giving the Yellowjackets a third-and-27 at their own 5-yard line. Povlsen threw deep to Jorge Rodriguez on third down, and Rodriguez nearly came up with an impressive one-handed grab, but Villa flew in and delivered a big hit to break up the pass, forcing Williams to punt.
After taking over at Williams’ 31-yard line, Kalfsbeek went to the air on first down, finding an open Victor Martinez for a quick touchdown, putting Pierce up 42-18.
No sooner had the Williams sideline gone quiet than Yellowjackets’ Jorge Rodriguez fielded the Bears’ kickoff and returned it 90 yards for a score, with 1:36 remaining in the third quarter – but that would be the last of the scoring for Williams.
Cruz Delgado would rumble in from 19 yards out late in the fourth quarter, to close the scoring, 49-24.
Kalfsbeek led the way on offense, finishing 3-for-8 with 118 yards and two touchdowns passing, along with 107 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries. Villa chipped in 41 yards and a touchdown on six carries, along with one reception for 80 yards and a touchdown. He turned in a solid day on defense as well, recovering a fumble in addition to his interception.
For Williams, which operated out of the spread for the majority of the second half, it was Povlsen and Davalos leading the way on offense: The pair connected six times for 67 yards and two scores through the air. ■