PREP FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS: Late fumble return ends Reedley’s Division V postseason run

Orosi’s ESL champions fall in D-V quarterfinal matchup on Central Coast, top seed eliminates Orange Cove in D-VI

Reedley High’s Kevin Perez wraps up Arvin High ballcarrier Noah Lopez (4) during the Pirates’ 28-21 loss to Wasco High in the Central Section Division V quarterfinals on Nov. 9. Sophomore running back Lopez rusted for 128 yards and three touchdowns for the No. 2 seed Tigers (6-5). (Danny Jimenez)
Jon Earnest
Published November 13, 2023  • 
11:00 am

WASCO – It appeared that a third consecutive late-game defensive stand was going to carry the Reedley High Pirates into the Central Section Division V football semifinals, but a stunning turn of events in the game’s final 90 seconds suddenly ended their season.

Mere moments after the Pirates recovered a fumble to seemingly preserve a one-point comeback victory, Ramiro Lopez scooped up a loose ball and raced 44 yards for the decisive score as host Wasco High pulled out a 28-21 triumph in Kern County. The win advanced the No. 2 Tigers (6-5) to a Friday, Nov. 17, home semifinal matchup against No. 3 Liberty-Madera Ranchos (9-3).

Despite the jolting end to its season, Reedley (4-8) turned around a nightmare 0-6 start to win four of its final six games. That included a regular season finale upset of previously undefeated Exeter High to gain a share of the Tri-County Conference’s Sequoia Division crown with the Monarchs and Immanuel High (all 3-1).

The No. 10 seed Pirates’ winning ways continued with a first round road playoff win at No. 7 Delano, and the heroics extended into the quarterfinal matchup with Wasco. Reedley rallied from behind three times against the Bears, taking the lead for the final time at 21-20 when Richie Camacho rushed for his second touchdown of the night; this one from six yards out.

Camacho also had a 16-yard TD run in the second quarter while senior running back Demetrius Vargas ran for a 2-yard TD midway through the third to tie the score at 14. Vargas finished with 143 yards on 19 carries, and closed out his senior season with 1,526 rushing yards and nine TDs.

Wasco sophomore running back Noah Lopez rushed for three touchdowns, all on short runs, while collecting 128 yards on 24 carries. The Tigers added a two-point conversion run after the decisive late touchdown to take a seven-point lead that held up.

Reedley finished with 286 total yards, five more than the hosts. Quarterback Will Bacon passed for 44 yards on five completions and also added 67 yards rushing.

In other quarterfinal playoffs on Nov. 9:

Morro Bay 35, Orosi 25 – At Morro Bay, the East Sequoia League co-champion Cardinals (10-2) held a 25-21 halftime lead before the host Pirates (7-5) scored a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter and held on to end Orosi’s most successful season since the 1990s.

Senior running back Andrew Camarillo capped off a record-setting career by rushing 31 times for 251 yards and three touchdowns. That gave him a school record 2,562 yards and 35 touchdowns, and his career school record marks of 6,540 yards and 92 touchdowns have cracked the Central Section’s all-time top 10 rushing rankings.

Camarillo’s final touchdown late in the second quarter gave the Cardinals a four-point lead at the break, but Morro Bay countered with a passing and rushing touchdown to go ahead for good. Senior quarterback Ian Lambright completed 19 of 30 passes for 267 yards and three TDs while also rushing for 52 yards and another score.

Sophomore Jason De La Cruz rushed for the other Orosi touchdown, and also added a pair of interceptions to finish among the state leaders with 11 picks in 12 games. Morro Bay outgained Orosi in total yards, 457-371.

Arvin 56, Orange Cove 35 – At Arvin, the No. 9 seed Titans (6-6) couldn’t overcome a 21-0 first quarter deficit against the top-seeded Bears (7-4), although they did parlay a strong second quarter to trail by just 35-28 at halftime.

Arvin actually led 35-7 midway through the second before the Titans racked up consecutive touchdowns by Matthew Covarrubias (pass reception and 50-yard punt return) and Julian Magdaleno (run). Magdaleno had scored the first Orange Cove TD on a short run and also added a two-point conversion run in the period. Quarterback Oscar Alvarez passed for two scores and had an interception.

Both teams exchanged TDs in the third quarter to make the score 42-35, but the Bears broke it open with two more rushing touchdowns. Junior Xavier Gonzalez finished with 117 rush yards and three touchdowns and Xavier Reynoso had 144 yards and one score. Arvin compiled 378 ground yards, averaging a whopping 12.6 yards per attempt.

“(We) lost some close games this year and look forward to next year’s season,” OC coach Horacio Bravo said. “A lot to learn and grow from this year, but I’m very proud of our coaches and players.”.

Jon Earnest