REEDLEY – The Immanuel High and Reedley High football teams put on an offensive ground show for the fans at Sal Gonzalez Field on Sept. 28, combining for 75 points and 10 rushing touchdowns.
But in the end, it was the visiting Eagles who wore down the Pirates in the second half, taking advantage of two fumble recoveries to register 26 second half points and pull away to post a 47-28 triumph to open Tri-County Conference Sequoia Division play. Immanuel evened its season record at 3-3 while Reedley remained in search of its first win, dropping to 0-6.
“I’m extremely proud of the second half play,” Eagles coach Josh Henderson said of his team’s outburst. “Reedley is a good football team. You see 0 and five, but they’ve got a young quarterback, their offensive line is physical and (RHS coach) Tony (Gates) does a really good job. But the fact that our guys rallied in the second half and we were able to accomplish the goals we had was a very positive thing.”
The teams battled to a 21-21 standoff after 24 minutes, with Eagles sophomore Seth Hutchinson rushing for a pair of touchdowns (including a 90-yard run) while Pirates quarterback Will Bacon also ran for a pair of scores. The physicality of the game picked up early in the third quarter, and Immanuel took advantage of a personal foul penalty and a strong run by quarterback Jake Horn to grab the lead on a short touchdown run.
Then came the first of two costly Reedley fumbles, this one on the kickoff as the Eagles recovered the dropped short kick at the RHS 40. The offense then overcame a holding penalty and moved close on a long Horn keeper and pounded it in for another rushing touchdown and a 35-21 lead.
Reedley took the ensuing kickoff, and a fumbled shotgun snap on the first play was recovered by big Eagles sophomore defensive lineman Tipo Aloua at the Pirates’ 37. The Eagles’ ground game moved inside the Reedley 5-yard-line. After an illegal block moved the ball back to the 13, Horn went to the air on the first play of the fourth quarter to connect with Nic Coleman for a 13-yard touchdown.
That made it 41-21, and both teams swapped rushing scores in the final 12 minutes. The Pirates’ Demetrius Vargas added his second rushing touchdown on a 4-yard run and Kase DeGroot scored for Immanuel on a short run.
“This season is where we’re good enough to win games, and then at inopportune times we make some mistakes that wind up hurting us,” Gates said. “That’s on me, I’ve got to put us in situations in practice that closely mirror a game situation and get them mentally tough for that. So that’s all on me.”
Reedley came out crisp and grabbed the early lead. Hard running by Vargas (who had two touchdowns in the game) and an early long pass from Bacon to Mason Cisneros moved it into the red zone, and on fourth and goal from the 6, Bacon rolled to his right, reversed field and swept left end for the touchdown and a 6-0 lead three minutes into the game.
An incomplete pass on the two-point try kept the score 6-0, and Immanuel quickly responded on a flea flicker play. Horn received a pitch after making a handoff, then threw long downfield to Coleman for a 53-yard gain to the Reedley 19. John Viscarra capped the drive with a short scoring run, and a blocked extra point kick kept the game tied at 6.
Reedley answered right back, driving 70 yards with a big completion from Bacon to Luke Gonzalez and a fourth down conversion among the big plays. Vargas scored from a yard out, then on another two-point try took the direct snap in a spread formation and raced into the end zone for a 14-6 lead near the end of the quarter.
In the second quarter, Hutchinson sprinted in from 15 yards out for his first touchdown, and Viscarra added a 2-point run to tie the score at 14 midway through the period. Reedley responded with another sustained drive, converting three first downs before Bacon got loose down the right sideline and beat defenders to the pylon for a 35-yard scouring run with 4:23 remaining before halftime.
A penalty on the ensuing kickoff had the Eagles pinned back at their own 10 yard line. Two plays later, Hutchinson raced through a seam on the left side, got clear along the sidelined and sprinted 90 yards for a momentum-changing score at the 3:28 mark. Reedley made one more drive, but turned the ball over on downs.
“We had a good game plan, we executed the first half,” Gates said. “I can’t get down, this team has no quit. I’ve never seen a team work so hard and play so hard and come up short. These guys just battle and battle. We’ve got four games left, and we’re hoping to win them all and get to the playoffs.”
Henderson, meanwhile, was happy with his team’s resolve, physical play and execution down the stretch. He’s hoping it carries through to TCC play.
“Our biggest issue right now is consistency,” he said. “This week was one of our better efforts against a very worthy opponent. Tonight, we definitely wanted to have a better ball control situation.”
Immanuel finished with 515 total yards to 296 for Reedley.
The Eagles return home to County Line Stadium on Friday, Oct. 6, for a showdown against unbeaten Sierra Pacific (5-0 entering a Sept. 29 game against Selma). That’s followed by an Oct. 13 road contest against defending TCC Sequoia champion Exeter.
Reedley’s next three games are on the road, the first two at Hanford. On Friday, Oct. 6, the Pirates take on Hanford West in a 7:30 p.m. start before playing a rare Saturday contest on Oct. 14 against Sierra Pacific. Kickoff for that evening matchup will be at 7 o’clock.