By Duane Barker
(Covina, CA) – The Baldwin Park Braves and the Covina Colts squared off Friday night in the second round of the CIF Division X playoffs and while the game didn’t start off in grand fashion, it crescendoed to a big finish with the Braves coming out on top 26-25 at Covina District Field.
“Now look, we are going to score and go for a two-point conversion and get it. Then we are going to get the ball back with less than three minutes and you are going to get a chance to win the game. Now let’s go out and get it.” This was the advice and encouragement that Baldwin Park special teams coach Erick Escamilla gave to his kicker Eric Gonzalez as the team was making their incredible comeback.
After the first half saw the Braves only gain one first down, that comeback seemed to be an almost insurmountable task.
The game started with Braves getting the ball to start the game and immediately turned the ball over when Drew Knight’s backward pass was offline and recovered by Covina at the Baldwin Park 11. Four plays later Jack Duronslet scored on a two yard run.
The Braves managed to block the extra point and with only 1:24 gone in the opening frame, Covina was up 6-0.
Later in the first Baldwin Park’s Caleb Calvin managed to pick off a Duronslet pass but the Braves were unable to capitalize on the turnover.
Midway through the second quarter Covina went on a six play, 71-yard march to paydirt with Joseph Rangel getting his first score on the night. The Colts went for two but were turned back by the Brave defense.
Four minutes later the Colts again were on the move driving 69–yards on six plays. Rangel got the call again this time from three yards away. On his scamper to the endzone Rangel high stepped it across the goal line earning an unsportsmanlike penalty. That penalty would be a costly one and Noah Gonzales would also miss the extra point.
Having failed to achieve much in the way of momentum, Baldwin Park took advantage of the Colt penalty when Isaiah Ariza took the ensuing kickoff and sliced through the Covina coverage and off to 70-yards to glory. The Braves lined up for the extra point but a bad snap forced Tec Nunez to make a dash for the goal line. He found it for the two point conversion.
As time was winding down in the first half, the Colts once again found themselves deep in Brave territory. The drive culminated as time ran out when a scrambling Duronslet found Da-mion Yeargin just across the goal line from 16-yards away. This time Noah Cuellar nailed the extra point and Covina headed to the locker room with a 25-8 advantage.
The second half was all Braves offensively. A 30-yard run by Knight capped a 82-yard drive near the end of the third and 7-yard pass from Knight to Ariza to complete a 64-yard drive much to the delight of the Baldwin Park faithful.
After the touchdown from Knight to Ariza came the two point conversion as predicted by Nostradamus…or if you prefer coach Escamilla. Knight found Amari Lindsey to cap the aforementioned prediction.
What wasn’t in the prediction was turn of events that would give the ball back to Baldwin Park.
The Braves were gifted good field position when the Colt’s Juaquin Barragan coughed up the football at his own 44 which Baldwin Park covered.
Baldwin Park proceeded to go on an 8-play march towards their destiny. The Braves were forced to convert a fourth and one and Ridge Lalau in as the wildcat quarterback muscled his way to the first.
When the drive stalled at the Covina 16, Baldwin Park head coach Ibis Aguilar sent out his kicker Gonzalez to give his team the lead and Gonzalez delivered. The kick wasn’t pretty and to some in attendance looked like a Ford Pinto trying to make it up Kellog Hill, the ball just snuck over the upright giving the Braves a 26-25 lead.
The game wasn’t quite over yet as there was still 1:08 showing on the clock when Duronslet led his offense back on the field.
After a scramble for short yardage, Duronslet had a little trouble with a snap and was forced to pick it off the ground. After doing so, Duronslet let go of a pass down the right sideline in the direction of Dylan Maestas. Maestas made a great catch plucking the ball out of the air over the outstretched arms of a Brave defender.
After a short run Duronslet spiked the ball on second down to stop the clock. With third and goal at his own three, Duronslet bootlegged out of the pocket to his right and looked for a Covina receiver. What he didn’t see was Vegas Bautista hot on his trail who dove and tripped up Duronslet near the five yard line. Duronslet fell inbounds and the clock ran out.
Up next for Baldwin Park is a home matchup with Muir in the semi-finals.