Calexico High School senior Ernie Sanchez stiff-arms a defender from Castle Park High of Chula Vista during the Bulldogs nonleague matchup at Ward Field in Calexico on Friday, Aug. 27. Calexico defeated Castle Park 60-6 to improve to 1-1 on the young season. | SERGIO BASTIDAS PHOTO
CALEXICO — Both the Calexico High School football team and Castle Park High of Chula Vista came into the nonleague matchup on Friday, Aug. 27, unsure of what direction either team was headed.
Seven days earlier, Calexico lost a low-scoring affair to Palo Verde Valley High of Blythe, 15-6, at home. Meanwhile, Castle Park was held scoreless, 32-0, in its season opener against Rancho Buena Vista.
With Friday’s result, it appears both teams are going in opposite directions … and fast. Behind a staggering five first-quarter fumbles, the Bulldogs (1-1 overall) were able to get on top of the Trojans early and often, cruising to a 60-6 victory at Ward Field in Calexico.
The game started with an effective Calexico drive, moving the ball 40 yards down the field before being stopped on fourth down after a short run missed the line to gain by one yard.
Castle Park would begin its first possession with a procedural penalty, but would get it right on the actual first play from scrimmage. Motioning left to right, junior running back Jalen Hopkins took the pitch from quarterback Jose Jackson 66 yards down the sideline for the Trojans’ lone score of the game. They would miss the point-after, keeping the score at 6-0.
“It was a bit of a wake up call for us,” said Ernie Sanchez, Calexico’s senior running back. “Our guys weren’t mentally prepared at that moment and it showed. Once that happened, we were ready and pulled through to get this win.”
Castle Park would only have the lead for 13 seconds because on Calexico’s next possession, Sanchez would take the first-down handoff and sprint 80 yards down the field to even the score at 6-6 after the Bulldogs missed their extra point.
“He brings a different type of spark to our offense,” said Fernando Solano, Calexico’s second-year head coach. “His explosiveness is something you can’t teach. As he gets into a rhythm throughout the season, he’s the guy we’re going to need to give us that spark.”
The game would get ugly from there as Castle Park would muff the ensuing kickoff, the first of four turnovers in the first quarter, leading to short fields for the Bulldogs that they would capitalize on.
Abram Zazueta and David Esquer would take two quarterback keepers of 29 and 22 yards, respectively, for touchdowns. Andrew Rivera would reach the end zone off a 28-yard run and Esquer would connect with Pedro Cruz for an 11-yard touchdown pass to make the score 34-6 at the end of the first quarter.
“Our main goal was to create turnovers and then take advantage of the opportunities given to us,” Solano said. “We’re going to play what’s given to us. Obviously, the running game was very effective for us tonight; we would like to pass it more, so hopefully we can do that in a future game.”
The game would continue to go along similarly to the first quarter. Other than Hopkins, who finished with six carries for 76 yards before leaving the game with an injury, the rest of the Trojans’ offense would gain only 126 yards for the game.
Sanchez would only go back into the game once in the second half, but he would make the most out of that opportunity as he stiff-armed two Trojans’ defenders on his way to a 38-yard touchdown run. Sanchez finished the game with 179 rushing yards on 10 carries and two touchdowns.
“We just had to fix the simple mistakes that our team made last week,” Sanchez said. “We had a really good week of practice, executed the game plan and the end result was a great win for us tonight.”
Calexico will travel for the first time this season on Friday, Sept. 3, heading north to take on the Calipatria with a 7 p.m. kickoff. The matchup will be the Hornets’ first game of the season after their home opener against Desert Mirage was canceled this week due to COVID-19 concerns.
“That is an advantage to us since we don’t have to deal with the first-game jitters like they do,” Solano said. “However, we don’t know anything about Calipat; they haven’t played in two years. So, we’re just going to feel them out as the game goes along.”