Prior to last Thursday night’s Coast Valley League title game at New Cuyama, a high school concession helper saturated a stack of briquettes with lighter fluid, tossed a match to it, then ducked away as flames exploded from the pit.
That served to foreshadow the fired-up spirit of the Cuyama Valley Bears as they jogged onto the gridiron for warm-ups before their game against visiting Coast Union. And although Coast Union trailed the Bears by just two points at halftime, 16-14, the Cuyama Valley quarterback’s accurate passes to his tall, elusive receivers proved the difference in the second half.
Cuyama Valley pulled away with 14 points in the third quarter and eight more in the fourth en route to a 36-21 victory, as both teams concluded Coast Valley League play Thursday, Oct. 30.
Cuyama Valley finished the season atop the standings at 3-0 in league competition and 8-1 overall, one game ahead of second-place Coast Union (2-1, 2-6).
The Broncos had several chances in the fourth quarter but couldn’t match the passing accuracy of the Bears, and Coast’s running game was stopped twice on fourth downs. Still, quarterback Alexis Mirales had an excellent game, rushing for 84 yards on nine carries and completing 5 of 10 passes for 89 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Binh Trieu was once again the workhorse for Coast Union’s offense, carrying the ball 26 times for 133 yards and a touchdown. He returned two kickoffs for 36 yards and made two tackles, one a touchdown-saving tackle in which his speed allowed him to catch up to the ball carrier from behind and bring him down.
Lane Sutherland was held to 20 yards on 10 carries, but he returned a kickoff 23 yards and made a big contribution on defense with five solo tackles and three assists. Tommy Moreno caught a pair of passes for 52 yards and a touchdown and punted twice for 84 yards.
Head Coach Bill Clough acknowledged that the loss at Cuyama Valley was “bittersweet” and that his team had several chances to score but didn’t come up with successful plays when they were most needed.
Still, Clough zeroed in on one particular referee’s call that essentially put the game out of reach for Coast Union. “On that last drive, we had third-and-one, and picked up a first down on the 10-yard line but the officials called a holding penalty. They hadn’t called a holding penalty the whole game, but they call one when we are driving for a touchdown late in the game?” Clough said. “That looked pretty suspect to me.”
Following the penalty, the Broncos did not make the first down, and on the first play after the Bears took over, they went 65 yards for a touchdown, putting the game out of reach.
That issue aside, Clough said, “We probably could have put a better pass rush on their quarterback, but they had good, fast receivers — and you can’t argue with success. They won. But we underachieved. We’re a young football team.”
Reflecting on the season and his players’ character, Clough said, “I didn’t have to motivate them. They really wanted to play football, and we have a lot of players returning, so we have set the table for next year.”
On the plus side for the Broncos from Thursday night, Warren Smith caught his first pass of the season — a 6-yard touchdown — and Juan Carlos Fernandez kicked two extra points and made two tackles. Jimmy Welch was credited with three solo tackles, Jake McAvoy had five solo tackles, and Gehrig Kniffen had four solo tackles and grabbed two passes for 31 yards.
Danny Corona had an interception and a 44-yard return to go with two solo tackles. Asher Armstrong was credited with three solo tackles, while Marcus Godfrey, Nahum Hernandez, Octavio Villavazo and Brayan Pena each had two solo stops.