EL CENTRO – Our local high school football squadrons shattered the record books this season in sensational fashion and brought the community along for a voyage that lasted deep into December and entailed numerous home/ road playoff games, multiple CIF Southern Section crowns, two California Bowl Regional titles, and a duet of home State Championship Finals.
Riddled with injuries this year, last season’s defending IVL Champion Wildcats finished 2017 with a solid 6-4 over-all record, but two tough conference slip-ups and a pair of preseason losses were surprisingly sufficient to leave Brawley out in the cold to miss the post season for the first time ever since joining the San Diego Section.
The Bulldogs hounded down their first IVL regular season victory in Coach John Tyree’s tenure and returned to make Calexico’s second consecutive CIF appearance. The run was short-lived as the Bulldogs were taken out 45-6 by the Kearney Komets in the first round of the CIF Division IV playoff.
Imperial was in a unique situation at 2-3 after conference play. Due to the Tigers’ performance in close losses over top tier teams and a Division III standing, Imperial’s resume was strong enough to punch their playoff ticket. A 41-0 first round home blowout over Patrick Henry advanced the Tigers to a road playoff quarter final. After being down 21-0 at the half, Imperial mustered up a comeback for the ages to reclaim the lead at 35-28 late in the fourth quarter. But on the last sequence of the game, Hilltop drove in a TD and converted the two-point attempt for the 36-35 finisher.
Equipped with a new coach and new system, Central went undefeated at Cal Jones field, brought back the Bell, and made a surprising CIF semi final cameo. Suffering only two losses all season, the Spartans enjoyed a first round CIF playoff bye. Central crushed the Kearney Komets 61-15 at home in the round two quarter final. For the Division IV semi-final, the Spartans traveled to San Diego High where Central was turned over by the Cavers on the last pass of the game in the 26-22 heartbreaker.
Southwest and Vincent Memorial matched each other’s memorable seasons as both units smashed on the Southern section teams, regional competition, and hosted a pair of State Championship Finals – the first of which have ever taken place on Valley soil.
Vincent Memorial rose out of “big brother” Bulldogs’ shadow this season as bragging rights remained on the west side of town when the Scots defeated Calexico High for the first time in school history. In their three CIF playoff games Vincent scored a combined total of 147 point and only gave up 11 including the 45-3 route over Crawford High in the CIF Division V Championship game. The Scots’ post season tirade continued in the 40-18 home blow-out over Huntington Park in the State Regional Championship. Unfortunately, Vincent Memorial was upended 38-20 by Galileo High in the State Final.
Southwest was finally able to break through as the top dog in IVL and claim the league title. The Eagles were awarded a first-round bye in CIF and bulldozed through the quarter and semis where the competition stiffened in the final versus Santa Fe Christian. A backdoor interception in the last seconds of the game by Southwest sealed the 35-28 final score and first-ever CIF title. A blow-for-blow contest against San Joaquin Memorial in the State Regional Final resulted in a narrow 31-28 win and a State title shot. Two late calls by officials late in the Milpitas game went against Southwest and have been the subject of heated debates by locals who have petitioned the 45-41 State Championship loss.
With such competitive talent here in the Imperial Valley and Manzanita Football Leagues, the competition appears to have perpetuated and evolved the Valley teams into more viable state powerhouses.