Football: Miners snatch Saddle from Blazers
Golden West finishes in second place in the WYL after last second El Diamante field goal ends game 23-20
By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN
VISALIA – Golden West’s 2017 season looked an awful lot like Golden West’s 2016 season. In both years they lost to Redwood in tough matchups, and in both seasons they were coming into their annual Battle for the Saddle rivalry game against the El Diamante Miners 8-1 and with a full head of steam. But one key difference sets the two seasons apart, the Trailblazers lost their game for a West Yosemite League (WYL) championship this time around.
Only three points kept the Blazers from holding a share of the title with El Diamante, but in those three points were a host of mistakes, turnovers, questionable calls and some strategic miscues. But fans wouldn’t have been able to guess those errors would earse the lead the Blazers built in the first quarter.
Their first drive chewed up some serious clock lasting 7 minutes and 51 seconds, and was capped off by a Payton Allen five-yard touchdown toss to the Josiah Washington. Golden West’s defense showed up early as well when they kept the Miners in check on a draw play that lost yardage and forced them to punt.
On the next play, Golden West’s Ben Davis rushed around the edge for 66 yards and set up his offense at the El Diamante 18 yard line. He was only able to get the edge because of a huge stiff arm that put one Miner defender on his back before he created some separation the rest of the way. Golden West offensive coordinator Stan Kanawyer put the ball in running back Gonzalo Rodriguez’s hands the very next play. Taking no time at all, Rodriguez rushed 18 yards for the Blazer’s second touchdown of the game giving Golden West a 14-0 lead with 1:03 left. Then on the kickoff, Golden West snuck another one past the Miners with a surprise onside kick that gave the Blazers the ball at the Miner’s 36 yard line. After a couple of runs the first quarter came to an end, and the Blazers moment began to stall.
The very first play of the quarter was a good run called back due to holding, then Allen found his favorite target in Washington over the middle for a big gain. But before the play was over a Miner defender stripped the ball from behind leading to a turnover. El Diamante couldn’t turn the possession into points but it was a spot of momentum when they originally had none.
The Blazer offense was held in check the rest of the half, and in particularly on key close downs. On fourth and short on the Miner half of the field the Blazers couldn’t pick up the yard, and then El Diamante took their time getting down to the 9 yard line before Jake Garbani rushed up the middle untouched for a touchdown making the halftime score 14-6.
Golden West’s offense started the second half just as badly as they ended the first. Despite the Blazer defense putting them in a good position the offense continued to sputter. Allen was sacked for a huge loss on second down put them way behind the sticks. The yardage was made up by a long run by Christian Ortiz but Rodriguez fumbled on the next play trying to making something happen on what would have otherwise been a short gain.
Unlike the first turnover the Miners managed to turn this one into points. El Diamante quarterback Parker Boswell passed to wide receiver Eric Zendejas who turned up the speed and created some separation between him and defenders until he wound up with a 37-yard touchdown. The point after try put them within one point of tying it up at 14 all.
After the game, head coach Paul Preheim said that his players did their best to make plays but mistakes cost them the game.
“I think we wanted to go out there and be superman,” Preheim said. “El Diamante didn’t make as many mistakes as we did and we can’t turn the ball over that many times and expect to win this game.”
However it wasn’t just fumbles that gave the Miners the advantage, it was turnover on downs as well. One key fourth and one call to go for it at their own 34 yard line could have deflated the Miner’s momentum – if it had worked. Instead the El Diamante defense stepped up and kept Allen from getting the yard on a quarterback sneak. The very next play the Miners stole all of the momentum for themselves when running back Devontae Freeman rushed around the far side edge to go in untouched for a 34-yard touchdown.
Preheim was nothing short of irate, but not at his defense but because of a missed holding call that gave Freeman the advantage to break the run loose.
And while the Blazers were able to get back into the game with a late game touchdown that put the score at 20-20 in the fourth quarter, the defense wasn’t able to stop the Miner’s late game rushing attack. On a series of quarterback designed runs the Miners were able to get into position for a late game 22-yard field goal by kicker Alex Saldana.
“We’ll get past this. Our team is pretty good about moving on from tough losses like this,” Preheim said.
The Golden West Trailblazers will have an extra week to get over their tough loss as they were seeded number one in Division IV standings which gives them a bye week and puts them in the quarterfinal round. They will be playing the winner between Exeter and Roosevelt who will play this Friday in the opening round.