Football: Woodlake rolls one game closer to ESL title
Tigers remain in control of the ESL with 42-6 win over the Corcoran Panthers
By Patrick Dillon
WOODLAKE – Tensions flew before the opening kickoff of last Friday’s East Sequoia League matchup between the Tigers and Corcoran Panthers. The Panthers planted their flag at mid-field of Painter-Robinson Stadium. That action resulted in a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty and fired up the Tigers who after winning 42-6 planted their own flag at mid-field.
“That definitely fired us up, but we did not need it,” Woodlake head coach Jeff Johnson. “We were prepared. I don’t think the score would have been any different had they not done that.”
It wasn’t until the second quarter that the Tiger (7-1, 3-0) got rolling on offense, but once they did there was no stopping them. After going scoreless in the first, they reeled off 28 points in the second quarter alone. Damian Hernandez was responsible for all four of the Tigers’ touchdowns as he went 14-20 for 240 yards and four touchdowns.
“From this point on out we are really going to send a statement out to the league,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez’s first strike came a little more than a minute into the quarter when he found a wide-open Robby Stevenson down the middle of the field.
Woodlake recovered a fumble on Corcoran’s ensuing drive and Hernandez had his second score passing touchdown four plays later. This time he found Hector Magana on an eight-yard curl route just across the goal line. One drive later the two connected again this time for a seven-yard touchdown.
After Corcoran scored their only points of the game Woodlake went up tempo and Hernandez found Bryan Cuevas for his fourth score making the halftime score 28-6.
In the second half the Tigers ran the ball more as they attempted to prolong their drives and drain as much of the clock as they could. In Victor Rojas’ absence the lead running back responsibilities fell to Josh Benavidez. He did not disappoint going for 74 yards on 20 carries. While he was held out of the endzone he was one of many players to step into leading roles.
The only Tiger to rush for a score was Carlos Cardenas. He took an off-tackle run 18-yards to the house and made it 35-6 in the third quarter.
“A lot of guys got a lot of reps at positions they were not used to due to some injuries,” Johnson said. “For us it is the next man up.”
Defensively, the Tigers proved why only their flag would fly at mid-field after the game. They forced the Panthers to punt the ball six times, and two turn over on downs. In addition, they forced two turnovers. The second was a fumble which Johan Reyes scoped up and took to the endzone for the games final score.
Before playing their remaining two games the Tigers will have a bye week this Friday night. A little uncommon for Johnson to have an open Friday this late in the season, but he his going to take advantage of it and let some of his players heal. The biggest on that list was running back Victor Rojas, who was inactive last Friday with an undisclosed injury.
“It was just a precaution measure and we hope to have him back for our game against Farmersville,” Johnson said.
Woodlake has quite possibility the easiest stretch of remaining games in the ESL which plays in their favor for winning their first title in four years. Both of their remaining opponents combined for 2-13. On Oct. 19, the Tigers will travel to take on the winless Farmersville Aztecs at 7:15 p.m. The following week Woodlake returns home to play the Granite Hills Grizzlies in the annual “Battle for the Belt.” Despite the combined record of their remaining opponents Johnson is not taking any chances.
“There is no easy win in this league, so we are going to prepare like we have all season,” Johnson said.