Despite struggling with their run game, the Pierce Bear football team had a 21-18 advantage in the third quarter of last Friday’s game at Gregg LeMaster Field, but the inability to mount a ground attack and a key turnover saw them fall 31-21 to the 2019 NSCIF Division III runner-up Paradise Bobcats
Last season, the Bobcats received national attention as they emerged from the ashes of the Camp Fire and went on to post a 12-1 record, losing only their final contest of the year to Sutter in the championship game and have picked up where they left off.
Yet the Bears, also a 2019 section runner-up, countered with big plays of their own to keep it close throughout.
“It was such a great game,” said Pierce coach Anthony Tapia. “Paradise is just an awesome, hard working team and I’m very proud of the job our team did, but we had a couple turnovers and a bad penalty late in the game that stopped our momentum.”
It was tough going in the first half for the Bears although Eduardo Ambriz got them on the board after taking the ball 37 yards to the end zone.
In doing so, Ambriz accounted for the largest part of Pierce’s 87 total rushing yards for the game on that one carry.
Still, the Bears only found themselves down just three points going into halftime and proceeded to open the second half with a bang after Justin Mathews returned the kickoff 76 yards for a touchdown.
Pierce did add one more score in the third period when Eduardo Paiz hit Luke Voorhees in stride for a 69 yard catch and run for the touchdown, but ultimately the Bobcats would respond with 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
Voorhees finished with eight catches for 129 yards, the majority of the Bears’ 176 total yards through the air.
In reflecting after the game, Tapia also credited his brother and offensive coordinator, Chris, for making adjustments that helped Pierce stay in the game.
“I’m so thankful for Chris. He called a really good game offensively for us. He kept us in it after Paradise started to figure out what we’re doing defensively and began having success,” Tapia said.
For the Bear defense, Aaron Tirado had team-high 12 tackles, while Jesus Ruiz collected nine, including four for losses.
While obviously wanting to win, Tapia says there is much that is positive to gain from the experience.
“I like playing these games and having a chance to win the game. It’s tough for the team to lose, but we take away a lot from this game that will be better for the future of our program,” said Tapia.
Pierce (2-1) hopes to bounce back this week when it hosts Durham (3-1) on Friday night.