Bulldogs stayed close through three quarters
Showing no signs of intimidation, the Mexico Bulldogs took on the No. 3 ranked California Pintos and didn't back down, staying close through three quarters in a 42-14 loss in a game that was closer than the final score indicates.
"We came out expecting to win and that is how we played," said Mexico head coach Ty Harrison. "We felt like we played with them stride for stride in the first half and gave ourselves a chance in the second half."
The Bulldogs took the opening kickoff and were able to move the ball, picking up three first downs on a drive that lasted a little over three and a half minutes before turning the ball over to the Pintos on downs.
California wouldn't have the ball for long though as Tyler Bracht picked off a pass and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown at the 7:13 mark of the first quarter. Even though the PAT was no good, Mexico took an early 6-0 lead.
After a kickoff return for big yardage, the Pintos moved the ball and on the fourth play of the series Dylan Albertson scored on a 30-yard run and the PAT was good to put California up 7-6.
The Bulldog defense was able to hold off the Pintos the rest of the quarter including stopping a fake punt attempt at the 1:20 mark.
In the second quarter, a Bracht pass was intercepted in the endzone, allowing California to start on the 20-yard line. After big runs and a couple of Mexico penalties set up California with a first and goal on the 4-yard line Albertson scored once again and the point after put the Pintos up 14-6.
"Defensively, we need to do a better job of tackling. The big plays we gave up were due to poor tackling," Harrison said.
Mexico's Laine Chedwick returned the ensuing kickoff to the 25-yard line. Three straight penalties by California allowed Mexico to move downfield, including a pass interference and a holding call on two successive pass plays intended for Skylar Harrington from Bracht.
Jamel Taylor picked up a first down with a 10-yard rush and then Bracht and Harrington finally connected on a pretty pass down the right sideline for a 25-yard touchdown by Harrington. Taylor ran in the two point conversion to tie the game at 14 at the 8:12 mark.
Another California touchdown by Jaden Barr with 4:56 to go in the half put the Pintos ahead again 21-14.
A long drive by Mexico, with success from both the pass and the run, got them back within striking distance in the closing minute of the half. A 3-yard run by D'Milo Nunnelly put them on the 1 yard line but a false start by Mexico and a quarterback sack by California pushed Mexico back to the 10. After a Taylor rush for no gain, Mexico took a timeout with 3.7 seconds left in the half.
On the final play of the half on a 4th and 10, Bracht took off on a quarterback keeper and was able to get to the 1-yard line but the California defense stopped him just short of the goal.
"It would have been nice to get that TD before the half, but despite that I still felt like at halftime we were in a good position," Harrison said.
Two plays into California's first drive of the second half, Mexico got two straight sacks to bring up a fourth and 12. But then Jaden Barr connected with Gerald Lutz on a 38 yard pass play to put California up by two touchdowns at 28-14.
Mexico was able to move the ball again offensively in the third quarter but couldn't score. "Offensively we need to learn how to finish drives in the endzone," Harrison said. "That comes with confidence, experience and execution."
In the fourth quarter, California's style of play and talent began to wear on Mexico when three Mexico penalties set up Albertson's third touchdown of the night and a California interception with 7:29 to go in the game led to several rushing plays and a Allan Burger touchdown to put the Pintos up 42-14.
"That is their game to pound you with the run and wear you down," Harrison said. "They have the big talented line up front to do that and that is the reason they are so successful."
Mexico was able to hang on to the ball the last 4:20 of the game before California took over on downs with 32 seconds left.
Despite the loss, Harrison was pleased with the players' effort and knows that playing tough teams can benefit them in the long run.
"The positives we take (from the game) are that we have a bunch of kids who are going to play hard and fight," he said. "Playing good competition will only make us better if we continue to push ourselves and learn to execute a little better for four quarters."
STATS LEADERS: OFFENSE: Tyler Bracht 9-23 for 87 yards passing, 1 TD, 2 interceptions; Bracht 24 carries for 52 yards; Jamel Taylor 16 carries for 72 yards; D'Milo Nunnelly 9 carries for 33 yards; Cole Jaramillo 6 catches for 67 yards; Skylar Harrington 1 catch for 25 yards, 1 TD.
DEFENSE: Karsten Ekern 16 tackles, Payton Turner 8 tackles, Laine Chedwick 7 tackles, Johnny McDonald 7 tackles
INJURY REPORT: Austin Logerman left the game on a stretcher in the fourth quarter with a possible bulging disc and contusion to the back. He will see a specialist Monday to determine the specifics and status of his injury.