Spartans hold off Calexico in IVL opener
Central Union High's Jacob Salgado (center) runs the ball with Calexico High defenders in pursuit Friday in Calexico. (Fernando Acosta Jr.)
The Spartans (1-0 IVL, 4-2 overall) started strong, scoring on their first two drives, but managed to cross midfield just once in the final three quarters.
“We had been having trouble getting started all season and tonight we come out and look great,” said Central coach Michael Hobbs. “Then we didn’t do anything after those first two scores. We’re just not getting four quarters of consistent football from our offense.”
Calexico (0-1 IVL, 0-6 overall) was able to move the ball on offense, but the Bulldogs weren’t able to find the end zone until the 7:28 mark of the fourth quarter when junior Juan Cazares finished a nine-play, 57-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown plunge. Quarterback Diego Moreno found Kilmer Robles open in the back of the end zone for the two-point conversion and the Bulldogs were back in the game late at 14-8.
The Bulldogs got a big effort from junior running back Alvin Wong who finished with 114 yards rushing on 26 carries.
“I’m very happy with the way these players have grown up this season and you could see how they’d matured tonight,” said first-year Calexico coach Allen Heck. “This was a different team in the second half.”
Early in the game it looked like the Spartans might run away from the Bulldogs. Central took the opening kickoff and marched 59 yards in seven plays with senior Oscar Castro finishing the drive with a 19-yard touchdown run. Castro finished with 58 yards on nine carries, but was held to 12 yards in the second half.
Calexico was forced to punt on its first possession and Central’s offense came out on fire once again. The Spartans went 61 yards in just five plays with Austin Petter finishing things off with a 5-yard run at the 4:44 mark of the opening quarter. Sophomore quarterback Sergio Osuna hit fellow sophomore Jacob Salgado for the two-point conversion and Central was up 14-0 early.
Osuna finished the game 7-for-15 passing for 121 yards, with six of the completions going to Salgado, who finished with 110 yards receiving.
“Those two sophomores (Osuna and Salgado) work extremely well together. They are friends, they hang out together and they know each other’s moves,” Hobbs said. “He (Salgado) knows the ball is going to be there where only he can get it. They are going to be a deadly combination for a few years.”
After the Bulldogs scored midway through the final period, their defense forced a Central punt with five minutes left in the game. Calexico took possession at its own 34-yard line and was able to move the ball down to the Spartans’ 28-yard-line.
Back-to-back sacks on third and fourth down ended the scoring threat. Central senior lineman Edgar Corona sacked Moreno on third down and teammate Bronson Hillix got the sack on fourth-and-14, giving the ball back to the Spartans with 3:13 left.
Central went three-and-out on its next possession, but a big punt from Corona pinned the Bulldogs back at their own 18-yard-line with 2:15 on the clock. They were able to move the ball to their own 41-yard-line with 40 seconds left, but a sack by the Spartans’ Alfredo Ramirez on fourth-and-10 ended any last second hopes for the Bulldogs.
“We had to step up,” Corona said about the Central defense. “They were moving the ball on us up and down the field and we just had to put it together and make the stop.”
Central travels to city-rival Southwest on Friday night for the annual city-championship contest while Calexico goes to Imperial for an IVL showdown.