In the dictionary the word nemesis is defined as “a formidable and usually victorious rival or opponent,” and for the Pierce football team, the example comes in the form of the Durham Trojans, a team that has bested the Bears in their last five meetings dating back to 2016.
While several of those contests resulted in blowout losses, others were close, as was the most recent match up between the two squads last Friday night in Durham where after a see-saw battle, Pierce had its hopes dashed in final minutes due to an unfortunate turn of events and ultimately fell 21-14.
A tight game was to be expected as the two teams had similar statistics and records with their only losses coming at the hands of Paradise.
Nevertheless, as the proceedings got underway it seemed as though this might be the Bears’ year as they forced Durham to punt on the opening possession then worked their way down the field to draw first blood.
Bears quarterback Eduardo Paiz played a big role on the initial drive with a 17 yard run to put Pierce inside the red zone at the 19, then two plays later connected with receiver Justin Mathews from 14 yards away for the touchdown.
However, the Bears could not hold the momentum and the Trojans responded with 14 answered points to take an eight point lead into halftime.
After receiving the second half kickoff, a Paiz pass to Mathews got Pierce to the Trojan 25 yard line, but after crossing the 20, the Durham defense stiffened, causing the Bears to turn the ball over on downs.
On the Trojans’ ensuing possession it was the Bear defense that rose to the occasion forcing a Durham punt from the goal line, which was shanked and gave the Pierce offense an opportunity from just outside 20.
While a penalty pushed the ball back and put the Bears into a third and long situation, Paiz delivered again when he found a wide open Daniel Gonzalez over the middle resulting in a 37 yard catch and run for the touchdown.
Jesus Ruiz tacked on the two point conversion to tie the game 14-14, but Durham wasn’t done, scoring the go ahead touchdown on the second play of the fourth quarter.
After a Pierce three and out, the Trojans then strung together a 16 play drive which the Bear defense finally stopped when it induced two negative plays and broke up a pass to bring up fourth down and set up the most dramatic play of the game.
With a 21-14 lead and under four minutes remaining in the game, Durham opted for a field goal attempt from the 27 yard line, which the Bears then blocked, and emerged with the ball as the play continued.
For a split second, as Pierce headed up field on the return it seemed to have a chance, but it was not to be as the ball was fumbled back to the Trojans, allowing them to run out the clock, and once again thwart the Bears.
While the Bears played hard, they just didn’t do quite enough to pull off the win according to Coach Anthony Tapia who also noted how his team struggled to contain Durham quarterback Jace Buck.
“In the three games we had on film of Durham, we didn’t see that quarterback get sacked. We had a lot of opportunities to do so, but he is just so good, and comfortable under pressure it made it difficult for our guys to get to him,” Tapia said.
While Buck did gouge the defense for 286 yards through the air, Kaden Davis, Ivan Colsa and Aaron Tirado each recorded a sack.
Ruiz led the team with eight tackles, including four for losses while Luke Voorhees made seven tackles and deflected two passes.
On offense, it was a relatively quiet night for Pierce, although Paiz completed four of eight passes for 88 yards and a pair of touchdowns then also carried five times for 43 yards.
Pierce (2-2) now hopes to stop its two game skid and is slated to play on the road against Winters (3-1) in the season finale on Friday night.