Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Pierce downs Hamilton, advances to 2nd round of playoffs

Pierce’s Joey Saavedra makes a catch for a 20-yard gain in the Bears playoff game in Hamilton City on Nov. 10.

Not even the brisk evening temperatures could cool off the Pierce Bears in the first half of the Division IV Northern Section CIF first round playoff matchup in Hamilton City last Thursday night as they downed the Braves 28-7.

Going into the game, the MVL champion and No. 4 seeded Braves had won seven straight, but in the absence of their quarterback, Diego Sanchez, who has thrown for nearly 2500 yards this season, they were unable to answer the No. 5 Bears, who put up 21 first half points.

Indeed, Pierce set the tone on its first play from scrimmage when fullback Manuel Lopez ran over a would-be tackler for a 14-yard gain.

Seven plays later, the Bears put the game’s first points on that board after Lopez powered his way into the end zone.

Then, after holding the Braves to a three-and-out, Pierce embarked on a 6.5 minute scoring drive highlighted by a 20-yard pass from Drew Burnum to Joey Saavedra, and capped by Lopez’s second touchdown of the night.

Battling an injury, Lopez was limited to 13 carries, and despite not playing in the second half, finished with 93 yards rushing.

However, there was more to come from the Bears, as they added to their total in the second quarter when Rudy Tapia carried the ball around the left side for the score.

Pierce got its final points of the game, less than 30 seconds into the third quarter, when after Erick Montanez recovered a Braves’ fumble, Burnum hit David Aguirre, who did the rest, racing 53 yards down the sideline into the end zone.

Pierce’s Manuel Lopez runs through the Hamilton City defense during the Bears’ win in the first round of the 2022 NSCIF D5 playoffs.

Although Hamilton City did score a touchdown in the fourth quarter, it was too little too late and the outcome was never in doubt.

For the Pierce offense, in addition to Lopez, Aguirre carried nine times for 68 yards, Tapia rushed 10 times for another 52, while Burnum completed a pair of passes for 73 yards.

Saavedra had a team high five tackles, Tony Saavedra intercepted a pass, and Dylan Wilson made two sacks.

Also recording a sack apiece was Luke Myers, Salvador Martinez, and Erick Ambriz.

After the game head coach Anthony Tapia said he liked the fortitude his team showed and that he feels they are ready for the next challenge which will pit them against No. 1 East Nicolaus.

“We’re physical and battle-tested. We wanted the ball early so we could show Hamilton that,” said Tapia.  “We’re banged up, but we’ve been grinding all year. We’ve played some tough teams this year and we’ve been here before.  We have some things to correct on defense, but we just need to take care of business.”

Pierce (6-5) travels to Trowbridge on Friday to take on the Spartans (9-1) in the second round of the playoffs.

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