Frenzied rally falls short for Reedley football

Rios-inspired Pirates overcome penalties and turnovers to battle Roosevelt before falling 39-32 for second straight home loss

Reedley High running back Demetrius Vargas looks for running room during the first quarter of the Pirates’ 39-32 loss to Roosevelt High on Aug. 25. The senior finished with 227 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries. (Jon Earnest)
Reedley High running back Demetrius Vargas looks for running room during the first quarter of the Pirates’ 39-32 loss to Roosevelt High on Aug. 25. The senior finished with 227 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries. (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published August 28, 2023  • 
11:30 am

REEDLEY – The Reedley High football team’s second home game of the season on Aug. 25 contained many of the same elements of the first: inspiring moments on the field involving Malachi Rios, a big early deficit for the hosts and, finally, another furious fourth quarter rally.

Reedley High’s Malachi Rios holds the football as the American flag hangs in the background during pregame warmups for Military Appreciation Night on Aug. 25. Rios, whose season and prep football career has ended as he resumes chemotherapy treatments for cancer, caught three passes for 62 yards in his final game as the PIrates lost 39-32 to Roosevelt High. (Jon Earnest)

Ultimately, the end result was the same for the Pirates — a second consecutive close loss, as the Roosevelt Rough Riders held on for a 39-32 non-league decision at Sal Gonzalez Field, turnovers (four interceptions and a fumble) and penalties (110 yards, with two touchdowns called back) proved too much for the team to overcome.

“We almost overcame a ton of adversity to win the game,” said RHS coach Tony Gates. “Despite all that, we still had a chance to win the game at the end. We have a ton of kids that are getting their first varsity experience, including our quarterback, and we’ve got to figure out the little things it takes to put a game away.”

The Pirates are also losing a valuable senior leader the rest of the way, as two-way starter Rios resumes his chemotherapy treatment for cancer that had returned earlier in the summer. While Rios didn’t score any touchdowns (he had two TD receptions against Firebaugh), he did collect 62 receiving yards on three catches and contributed on defense and special teams.

Reedley’s offense packed some punch with 474 total yards, 322 on the ground led by senior Demetrius Vargas with 227 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries. Sophomore quarterback Will Bacon added 71 yards on 10 attempts for a TD and a pair of 2-point conversion runs (Reedley was 4-for-4 on the night on those conversions).

But it was the mistakes that prevented the Pirates from a possible victory. Despite being outscored six touchdowns to four and trailing by 15 points with six minutes left to play, the team still had a chance to tie or win in the final two minutes. An interception by Richie Canmacho and 27-yard completion from Bacon to Izaac Olivas and a roughing the passer penalty moved Reedley to the Roosevelt 37 with two minutes left.

Reedley High quarterback Will Bacon races around left end during the third quarter of the Pirates’ 39-32 loss to Roosevelt High on Aug. 25. The sophomore rushed for 71 yards, a touchdown and a pair of 2-point conversion runs. (Jon Earnest)

Bacon then went deep to the end zone, but his pass was intercepted by a leaping Jeremy Young for a touchback. The Pirates defense forced a three-and-out with 1:19 remaining on the clock and took over at their own 36 following a punt; but Bacon’s pass over the middle was picked off and the Rough Riders were able to run out the clock.

“I was proud of us, never losing our composure and slugging it out to the very end,” Gates said. “Our running game is dangerous and will be the strength of our team going forward.”

Roosevelt overcame multiple incidents of cramping to prevail in its season opener under new head coach Josh Kloster, a former Lemoore High and Fresno State standout and LHS Hall of Famer. The Rough Riders had 337 total yards, getting three touchdown passes and a scoring run from quarterback Jackson Kloster (the coach’s son) and a pair of TD receptions from Young.

“We’re just trying to create a new culture here,” Josh Kloster said. “We’re doing everything we can to mentor these kids so that they understand there’s life after football. It was like a fighter’s game – we socked them in the mouth, they socked us back, and we prevailed in the end. Kudos to the kids.”

Reedley now has a bye week, and will use the added practice time to sharpen execution and crack the win column when they return to action Friday, Sept. 8, with a non-league game at Coalinga.

“I think this team has a ton of potential to make a late season run,” Gates said. “My message to (the players) is ‘two games don’t make a season’, it’s a body of work at the end.”

Jon Earnest
Reporter