Nothing came easy for the Pierce Bears last Friday night at Gregg LeMaster Field in Arbuckle, but they took a step forward in their development.
The Bears came from behind in the third quarter, then held on to claim a 15-8 victory over visiting Clear Lake.
While the Bear defense struggled against Orland two weeks ago, they yielded large chunks of yardage and points in every quarter against the Cardinals. The team rose to the occasion early, when Joseph Saavedra picked off a pass on the fourth play from scrimmage, giving his offense the ball at midfield.
From there, Pierce took advantage of the opportunity, embarking on an 11-play drive that culminated with quarterback Bryce Murphy finding a wide open Ryan Travis in the far corner of the end zone, from 10 yards out, to draw first blood with four minutes remaining in the opening quarter.
Yet, the lead would dissipate quickly, after Clear Lake recovered a Bear fumble as the first period came to a close.
The Cardinals capitalized just eight seconds later, when two Pierce defenders collided, allowing the Cardinal receiver a straight shot to the end zone and an 8-7 lead.
While turnovers ended the next two Bear drives, the defense was able contain the Clear Lake offense to keep Pierce within one point going into halftime.
On their second possession of the second half, the Bears then put together a 65-yard drive that chewed up five minutes of clock and was capped by Murphy, scrambling five yards for the touchdown.
A two point conversion run in by Iain Kalfsbeek put Pierce in front 15-8, and from that point, the defense did its job, bending – but not breaking – to preserve the lead and ultimately the win.
For head coach Anthony Tapia, it was a relief to see his squad get back on track, but he also recognized that there are many pieces yet to fall into place.
“It feels good to win, but like I told them, it’s a long season,” Tapia said. “This group is fun and they do a good job, but they are still giving up the big play and that needs to be corrected. I really like the foundation we have. We are one or two plays away from being a really good team though.
Tapia specifically pointed to the effort of the defensive line, led by Brandon Saavedra, who was able to apply consistent pressure and record 1.5 sacks.
Also playing well for the Bear defense was Kalfsbeek, the teams’ leading tackler with eight, and who additionally registered a sack and a half.
On offense, Pierce did what it needed to do, running for 149 yards and garnering another 64 through the air.
Manuel Lopez was the top rusher for the Bears, gaining 79 yards on 16 carries, while Murphy completed five passes for 64 yards and a touchdown.
Pierce (1-1) now readies itself to host county rival Williams on Friday night in the 91st Rice Bowl. ■