After getting shutout in Fall River two weeks ago, the Pierce Bears spent some time discussing what it means to play with heart.
Apparently it worked because despite seeing their first three possessions end in turnovers, they went on to a convincing 50-20 road victory over Colusa last Friday night to kickoff Sacramento Valley League play.
For Pierce head coach Anthony Tapia, the ability to persevere has been a point of emphasis with this team that had a large number of unproven entities coming into the season.
“We’ve been challenging our guys and a tough preseason was part of that, so they really stepped up tonight after a rough start,” said Tapia.
It certainly did not look good at the outset when on the second play from scrimmage the Bears fumbled and after a recovery by the RedHawks’ Julian Velasquez, Colusa had the ball at midfield.
Still, the Bear defense was able to keep the RedHawks at bay, after Brandon Saavedra sacked Colusa quarterback Emanuel Frias to force a punt.
Yet, Pierce couldn’t build on the momentum, as on the ensuing possession, Colusa’s Luke Kalfsbeek intercepted a pass deep in Bear territory, setting up the RedHawks’ first score of the game.
It occurred on a fourth and goal at the five when Frias fired a pass into the end zone that initially appeared to be intercepted, but was wrestled away by receiver Nick Price for the touchdown, giving the RedHawks a 6-0 advantage.
Colusa would have another chance in the first quarter, after Juan Arreguin recovered the second Bear fumble at the RedHawk 45, but that drive was halted by the Pierce defense.
As the second quarter dawned, the Bears came alive, scoring four times in the period, to take a commanding 29-6 halftime lead.
Iain Kalfsbeek got the ball rolling, taking it in from two yards out, then got his second of the night two minutes later from 10 yards away, which was set up by a bad snap on a Colusa punt that gave Pierce the ball deep in the red zone.
Following another RedHawk punt, the Bear ground game really got going as Manuel Lopez and Kayden Davis gashed the Colusa defense for 45 yards before Lopez powered his way 18 yards for the score.
Pierce’s final first half score came with 16 seconds remaining when Kalfsbeek found the end zone from eight yards out giving him a trifecta for the game.
As the third period opened, Colusa looked to be responding, putting together a 61-yard drive that culminated when a Frias pass bounced off the intended receiver into the arms of Landon Humphrey for the touchdown and put the RedHawks back in the game.
Yet, the Bears were having none of it, answering almost immediately as just two plays later, Daniel Gonzalez raced 80 yards down the sideline for the score to give Pierce a 36-12 lead.
To close out the quarter, the Bears tacked on another touchdown, this one coming courtesy of Davis, who bulled his way in from the two-yard line.
Pierce’s Armando Ramirez ended the next RedHawk drive with an interception, setting up the Bears’ final points of the game, a two-yard run by Saavedra, making the score 50-12.
With the clock now running, Colusa put up six more points when the RedHawks’ most potent weapons, Frias and Price, connected on a 55-yard scoring play just before time ran out.
The story of the night, however, was definitely the Pierce ground game, which accrued 465 yards and had two of its backs gain over 100 yards.
Lopez led the Bears, carrying 15 times for 157 yards, while Daniel Gonzalez added an additional 139 yards to the total. Kalfsbeek finished with 70 yards rushing, in addition to scoring three times, and Davis logged another 69 yards.
After the game, Tapia said he was pleased with the teams’ effort, praising his line as well as the running backs saying, “Our o-line was really good tonight. Jesus Calderon and Belsazar Haro are the two seniors, and they were great. Also, Brandon Saavedra blocked well from the tight end spot. Our guys ran hard, and the run game was just there.”
It was a tough first loss for the RedHawks, as coach Mikey Badaluco explained, “We have played four spread offenses in a row, so we just weren’t ready for Pierce’s tight power scheme. But we will rebound and hopefully see them in the playoffs.”
For Colusa, Frias completed 13 passes for 180 yards, while Price hauled in seven receptions for 110 yards.
Also having a noteworthy performance for Colusa was Luke Kalfsbeek, who, in addition to making an interception, had a fumble recovery and two catches for 34 yards.
SVL competition continues Friday for both squads as Pierce (3-2, 1-0) travels to Trowbridge to take on East Nicolaus, while Colusa (4-1, 0-1) enters into its homecoming game against Winters.