Losing a game is one thing. Coming within inches of winning is quite another especially when it is the first game home in awhile.
The Taft freshmen football team had to deal with both Thursday afternoon in a 20-14 loss to the Shafter Generals in Taft.
"It's a hard loss," said Taft coach Eric Newton. "I feel for our boys. They have been working hard the past two weeks."
Shafter had the momentum early in the first quarter with Ryan Brown's two runs totaling 40 yards to get to the Taft 28-yard line. Taft ended the drive a couple of plays later by recovering a fumble with 9:03 remaining.
The Generals had another chance to score on their next series by driving to the Taft 21-yard line but the Wildcats eventually took over on downs.
Shafter finally broke through on the first play of Taft's drive thanks to Israe;l Bermudez's interception before returning the ball to the Taft 19.
Two plays later Brown ran three yards for a touchdown with 3:44 to go in the quarter. Taft dodged a bullet when the two extra point was blocked.
Taft bounced back on their next series by driving deep into Generals territory. Facing a fourth down in the second quarter, Taft's Zack Gable tied the score with a three yard run. The Wildcats were unable to take the lead after the two-point conversion was no good.
Each team had a chance to retake the lead over the remaining minutes of the half. Taft had the first opportunity on their next series thanks in part to Tevin Howell's 16-yard pass to Andrew Hodges to get to the Shafter 10. Taft got the ball to the Shafter 9 on the following play but Taft had to turn the ball over on downs three plays later.
It was Shafter's turn to try to score when they advanced the ball to the Taft 10-yard line highlighted by Peter Espinoza's 13-yard pass to Brown on fourth down with 31 seconds remaining in the half. That was as far the Generals got before time ran out.
Momentum switched sides in the third quarter with Taft taking up most of the time by driving deep into Shafter's side of the field. Howell put the exclamation point to the Wildcat drive with a four-yard touchdown run with 4:37 remaining in the quarter. Howell followed up with a pass to Donovan Watrous to complete the two-point conversion.
Led by several big yard plays includingJuan Ruben Chavez's 18-yard run and Diarte's-12-yard run, the Generals drove to the Taft 9-yard line before Chavez ran for a touchdown with 1:28 remaining. Taft was able to hang on to the lead after the two-point conversion failed.
Page 2 of 2 - Shafter got their go ahead drive going 56 seconds into the third quarter. Over the next 3:49 the Generals marched down the field before Diarte ran in for a touchdown. Shafter completed the two-point conversion to take a 20-14 lead.
Taft's final drive was jumpstarted by Gable's run and a personal foul to put the ball at the Shafter 49. Following several short plays, Howell found Hodges for a 29-yard pass to get to the Shafter 2. On the following play, Taft got the ball to the half foot line. Taft had other chances to score but that was as close as the Wildcats got.
Newton feels the key to a win is consistency.
"We have highs and lows but never consistent," he said. "They know they're this close now we got to get them over the hump."
Taft will have some time before their next chance. The Wildcats will return to action Thursday, Oct. 11 when they host Cesar Chavez.
The game begins at 5 p.m.