HANFORD – The Reedley High football team finally had cause to celebrate on the grass field at Hanford High School’s Neighbor Bowl.
Hamstrung by six losses in a variety of scenarios, including a home loss to city rival Immanuel to open Tri-County Conference Sequoia Division play, the Pirates (1-6, 1-1) pieced together their most explosive offensive output of the season. With 595 total yards – 536 yards on the ground – and by overcoming multiple defensive breakdowns to post a wild 60-42 victory over Hanford West High on Oct. 6.
Despite the warts, a happy group of jubilant Pirates savored the victory. Joined in a post game huddle by teammate Malachi Rios, who continues chemotherapy treatment this week in his ongoing battle with cancer, RHS players and coaches chanted “Mal-a-chi, Mal-a-chi” while soaking in the long-awaited success.
“We could pretty much do what we wanted, we’re still trying to work on the passing game and be more consistent,” said RHS head coach Tony Gates. “We thought we had it in hand, so we were really trying to work on it for the future. Defensively, we’re just so young and inexperienced in the defensive backfield.”
Those broken plays helped keep the winless Huskies (0-6, 0-2) in the game as the hosts racked up the majority of their 516 total yards through the air. Hanford West scored touchdowns on passes of 5, 17, 71, 26 and 18 yards and twice crept within 12 points before the Pirates pulled away in the fourth.
Reedley’s ground attack was dominating and diverse, with three players eclipsing 102 yards. Senior running back Demetrius Vargas had 202 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns, sophomore quarterback Will Bacon ran for 162 yards and two long TDs while junior Richie Camacho finished with 107 yards and two TDs (three overall) on just eight carries.
Bacon, who weathered rough stretches as he’s gained experience as the quarterback position, scored on runs of 51 and 29 yards and also tossed TD passes of 6 yards to Luke Gonzalez and 12 yards to Camacho. He finished with 221 combined yards while Vargas and Camacho accounted for 224 and 119 rush-receive yards, respectively.
Reedley quickly seized command of the game, getting Bacon’s 51-yard scoring dash around the right flank just more than three minutes into the game. After a fumble recovery by Chris Macuiel, Vargas capped a short drive with a 6-yard sweep for a 14-0 lead. Hanford West countered with a TD pass on its ensuing possession, but Bacon countered with a slant pass to Gonzalez for the score to make it 21-7 at the end of the first.
Camacho had his two long touchdown runs, a 12-yarder and 53-yard dash up the middle, in the second quarter as Reedley went up 34-14. Bacon’s 28-yard scoring dash made it 42-20 late in the half before a Huskies field goal made the score 42-23 at halftime.
Reedley then worked on its passing game with the big lead, and after Hanford West collected two more passing touchdowns the offense put the game away with a late burst.
“It’s a great relief, and I’m so proud of the kids,” Gates said. “I’m glad they can get this win, but me as a coach, I see things I know we’ve got to fix.”
The Pirates return to Hanford for a 7 p.m. game Saturday, Oct. 14 against Sierra Pacific (which lost 28-27 at Immanuel for its first defeat) at Hanford High’s Neighbor Bowl. The game is on a Saturday because of three home games scheduled this week for Hanford schools.
“(Sierra Pacific) is a very improved team, (but) I think we match up well with them and I think we can give them a game,” Gates said. “It’s going to be a very good test for us on how much we’ve learned and improved.”