With a full moon shinning down on Gregg LeMaster Field in Arbuckle, the hometown Bears turned the annual Rice Bowl into a nightmarish experience for the Williams Yellowjackets as they carved up the visitors en route to a 38-12 victory in the 89th meeting between the two rivals.
It was the third-straight victory for the Bears who hold a 52-32 advantage in the series, which dates back to 1927, and also includes five ties.
At the outset however, it looked as though Pierce might be plagued with bad luck after the ’Jackets marched 65 yards in nine plays to draw first blood on an eight-yard run by Aldo Ambriz.
Yet such was not the case, and the Bears answered right back as on their first play from scrimmage junior Jesus Ruiz ripped off a 43-yard run to put Pierce in business at the ‘Jacket 18-yard line.
Three plays later Aiden Charter evened the score at 6-6 taking it to the house from six yards away.
While the Bear defense forced a punt on the ensuing series, the offense fumbled it back to the ’Jackets in Bear territory at the 36, and ultimately allowed Williams to increase its advantage.
It did not come easily for the Yellowjackets however, as they had an apparent touchdown called back for holding, before converting on a one yard pass from Mo Hernandez to Sam Navarro to put themselves back on top 12-6 with just over two minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Still unbeknownst to the ’Jackets it would be their final points of the game, because the Bears were about to unleash a barrage of 24 unanswered points along with some aggressive defensive play.
Thus, just 38 seconds into the second period Pierce took its first lead of the game at 14-12 when Charter found the end zone for a second time before the Bears tacked on the two point conversion.
On the ’Jackets ensuing possession, the Bear defense then inflicted even more misery when Daniel Medina picked off a pass at the Williams 48.
From there the Pierce offense capitalized seven plays later after quarterback Eduardo Paiz faked the handoff and raced 19 yards to the end zone and when the two point conversion was added on, the lead was extended to 22-12.
Still, at this point the ‘Jackets had one more shot to change the momentum and just as it seemed they had, their 45-yard touchdown run was called back for holding and the drive ultimately stalled.
This would prove to be the back breaker for the ‘Jackets, who had some significant lapses on the night, as Coach Jeff Lemus explained, “Having two scores taken off the board really took a lot out of our boys. We had some blown coverages and broke down on our responsibilities, but credit to Pierce for playing well on both sides of the ball.”
Unfortunately for the Yellowjackets, the Bears weren’t done yet as just three minutes before half Eduardo Ambriz got into the act taking it five yards for the score to make it 30-8 at intermission.
Pierce didn’t let up in the early going of third quarter either when on the third play of the second half, Paiz found Medina wide open behind the defense for a 47 yard scoring strike and the final points of the game.
Paiz, who had thrown nine touchdown passes coming into the game and has really opened up the offense, managed the game well, completing 12 passes for 174 yards in addition to throwing for one touchdown and running for another.
Also having strong showings were Bear running backs Ruiz and Charter who both eclipsed the 100 yard mark on the night.
Ruiz rushed 14 times for 134 yards while Charter gained 116 yards on 10 carries and scored twice.
Nevertheless, while the offense certainly did its part, the Pierce defense was really the difference as they harassed Hernandez, the Williams quarterback, for the majority of the game.
Afterward, Pierce coach Anthony Tapia, who is looking for his defense to improve every game said it was an early adjustment that proved to be a key factor in the outcome.
“We weren’t getting any pressure on their quarterback early on, but after we called timeout we started to get more pressure and it made a huge difference.”
Registering the Bears’ four sacks were Ruiz, Alex Tapia, Tristan Miller and Greg Virgen, while Francisco Alcaraz collected seven tackles and Luke Voorhees made six.
Tapia, who as a player went 1-1 in the Rice Bowl and now as the Bears’ headman is 2-0, felt relief after the win, but was also excited about the way his team played.
“There was a lot of pressure coming into this game and I heard about it even from people on the street, but for the second game in a row we needed everyone. They played really hard and I’m proud of them, ” Tapia said.
For the ’Jackets, Hernandez had a good night completing 16-28 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown while Ambriz was on the receiving end of eight passes for 101 yards.
On defense for Williams Jesus Jauregui had a solid effort making a game high 10 tackles and recovering a fumble, while Angel Juarez, Enrique Garcia and Alexis Pineda each recorded sacks.
Next week each team returns to the field for a final preseason contest with Pierce (2-1) facing off at home against perennial power East Nicolaus, while Williams (2-2) plays host to Willows (1-1) who is coming off a 40-0 loss to their rival Orland.