Orosi rallies to take command in ESL football race

Cardinals rally twice in the second half to pull out 22-20 victory at Corcoran to improve to a perfect 8-0 during school record-best campaign

Orosi High’s Brandon Lopez (4) and Estevan Quevedo (21) combine to lay a big hit on Corcoran High’s Eian Hernandez during the Cardinals’ 22-20 comeback victory over the Panthers in an East Sequoia League football showdown in Corcoran on Oct. 13. Quevedo collected a game-clinching interception late in the fourth quarter. (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published October 17, 2023  • 
11:00 am

CORCORAN – The Orosi High Cardinals passed – or in this case, ran – with flying colors in their biggest test so far in what’s been an unprecedented football season for the program.

The Cardinals chewed up 295 rushing yards, 229 by senior running back Andrew Camarillo, twice rallying from behind and preserving the lead with big defensive plays for a 22-20 victory over the Corcoran High Panthers on Oct. 13. The triumph was the eighth straight without a loss for Orosi (8-0, 5-0) in a record-setting start for the program, and put the team in sole possession of first place in the East Sequoia League with two regular season games to play. 

Head coach Ben White praised the grit of his Orosi High defenders, which got the team rolling early on with a fumble recovery and then cemented the victory with linebacker Estevabn Quevedo’s interception with just under two minutes remaining. In between, the unit stood stout and turned away late threats while limiting the Panthers (6-2, 4-1) to 255 total yards.

“The defense has been starting to become the backbone of our team,” White said. “When it really counted, those guys made plays. They’ve played great all year but they played great tonight against a big team with good fast running backs. I couldn’t be prouder.”

Quevedo stepped in front of a Panthers pass to the left flat for the decisive interception, the last of a series of key defensive stops; including a third-quarter stand when the defense turned away a scoring threat after Camarillo lost a rare fumble on a punt return.

“The linemen dropped back, so I knew it was a pass,” Quevedo said of his game-clinching pick. “It’s the whole unit, we’re just working together and playing hard everyday.”

Camarillo, who helped pad his career school rushing yardage and touchdowns records with scoring runs of 28 and 57 yards, gave all the credit to the defense for the heroics throughout the night.

“I trust them with all my heart. Offense wins games, but defense wins championships,” he said. The senior still was the team’s primary weapon on offense with a workmanlike 33 carries. His second big scoring jaunt, the 57-yard run, opened the second half and was followed by a two-point run to give the Cardinals a 15-14 lead.

Corcoran regained the lead when Uzziah Nash’s 43-yard dash set up a 10-yard TD run by Eian Hernandez (88 yards on 14 carries with two TDs) right after the Camarillo score. But Orosi held close, and regained the lead on the first play of the final quarter when Jason De La Cruz busted free on a counter run and raced around left end for the score. The PAT made it 22-20, and the Cardinals relied on ball control and the defense to preserve the lead.

“I think in the second half, we really tightened it up (defensively) and just made a few minor adjustments on the offensive line and went right down and scored,” White said. “Jason came in at running back and gave us a little spark with his speed going around the edge, and the guys just executed when they had to on the offensive line.”

Corcoran’s top rushing threat, senior Enrique Rios, finished the night with 118 yards on 22 carries and a touchdown, a 7-yard run in the first quarter. The Cardinals’ defense limited the Panthers to just 12 passing yards on two completions.

Orosi can clinch the outright ESL championship with wins in its remaining games; at home against Woodlake (Friday, Oct. 20) and Orange Cove (Oct. 27 in the annual “Battle for the O’ matchup).

“We control our own destiny at this point, and we’ve just got to keep trying to win football games one game at a time. It’s like everybody says, but it’s true,” White said.

Jon Earnest