Mistakes costly in SSL loss

Friday night was homecoming night at Taft Union High School. The varsity football team took on the McFarland Cougars. Both teams came into the game winless in league play, and McFarland got the win in this game 13-12.

It was a back and forth battle for the entire game. Both defenses put on a show and did everything they could to give their team a chance to win the game.

Taft started the game off by kicking off to the Cougars. McFarland started on their own 41 yard line. The Wildcat defense wasted no time putting the Cougars in a 4th and 8 situation to force a punt.

Taft started their drive on their own 25 yard line. A strong defensive stand by the Cougars forces a punt from Taft. The punt sailed downfield and hit a McFarland player and Nick Vargas jumped on the ball to recover it for the Wildcats.

Taft began another offensive drive, but couldn't find a way through the Cougar defense. They were forced to punt the ball away again. The first quarter ended scoreless.

At the start of the second quarter, the Cougars started to have a little success moving the ball. McFarland moved the ball all the way down to Taft's 9 yard line.

The defense made another big stand to force a turnover on downs. Taft got out to about the 21 yard line before they were forced to punt the ball away again.

Alex Delgado intercepted a pass and got the Wildcats another chance on offense. Van Roekel found Brett Walls for a long first down pass, but then the McFarland defense made a stand of their own and Taft had to try for a field goal to break the stalemate. The 3 point attempt was unsuccessful and the Cougars took over on the 36 yard line.

McFarland started to move the ball again and the drive began to look threatening, but Jacob Ellis picked off a pass to stall their drive.

Taft's offense failed to make any headway again and had to punt. The Cougars moved the ball down the field again. They got into a 4th and 3 situation on the Wildcat 11 yard line. The Cougars decided to go for it and came really close. The refs had to call for a measurement to see if it was a first down or not. Taft's defense had done it again. They stopped McFarland just inches shirt of what they needed for the first down.

Again Taft was unable to move the ball and punted it away. The Cougars finally managed to wear down the Wildcat defense enough to sneak one in the endzone to get the scoring started.

The Wildcats started on their own 27 yard line to begin their drive before the half ended. On the first play, Van Roekel was picked off to end the half.

Penalties plagued the Wildcats in the first half of play, and at the start of the second half, it looked as if that trend might continue. On the kickoff, Taft was penalized for a block in the back.

The run game looked like it was starting to find some momentum when the ball was fumbled and the Cougars recovered the ball.

The third quarter came to a close and the score was still 7-0. It is still a defensive showcase at this point when Nick Vargas and Jordan Miranda found another gear and moved the team down the field. Van Roekel found Austin Massey in the endzone for a touchdown. The PAT was no good, but the Wildcats were on the board.

Taft tries to onside kick the ball, but it finds its way out of bounds.The defense came up with another stop with 8:38 left to play.

Once again the Taft offense was on the field, and now all the flags being thrown were going against the Cougars. Taft got down to the 18 yard line and the ball came loose again. This time when McFarland recovered, they ran it all the way to the end zone.

There was a flag on the play. Everyone in the stands was waiting to see what the call was going to be. It is against the Wildcats, so the touchdown stood with 13-6 the new score.

Walls fielded the kickoff and got to the Cougars 48 yard line. Hamblin ran for a first down and then a face mask call moved the ball to the 11 yard line.

Miranda gets the carry and is swarmed. It looked like he was going to be stopped, but he keeps his legs moving and broke free of the would-be tacklers and skirted into the endzone. The Taft stands go crazy at this point.

The Wildcats looked to go for the win with a 2 point conversion, but were stopped short and trailed by 1 point.

Taft kicked off and now the defense had the task of stopping the Cougars and giving the offense another chance to score. The defense forced a punt and there was 3:13 left in the clock.

Taft started moving the ball again down the field. A couple penalties against McFarland and the Wildcats were on the 15 yard line. On the next play, the ball was pitched to Vargas, who scrambled around and threw a pass to Walls in the endzone. The team and the fans were yelling and celebrating, but there was a flag on the play and this time it was against Taft, so the touchdown was nullified.

Coach Falgout sent out the kick team and decided to tie and win the game with a field goal. Now when the two teams lined up, it looked like some of the Cougars were offsides. The ball was hiked and the kick was no good.

The Cougars ran one play and then kneel down to run out the clock to end the game. The stands were in an outrage as the team knew that they had the game and it just slipped away.

Talking with a few of the players after the game, you could hear the disappointment in their voices. “This was supposed to be our game. It was our homecoming night and we were supposed to get the win. We made some mistakes handling the ball and it cost us.”

“The defense came up big for us tonight and we just couldn't do the same on the other side of the ball. The penalties hurt us as well. When Walls went into the endzone, that should have been the game. We needed this game - not just because it was homecoming, but we need a win in league. This is not the spot we want to be in right now.”

The boys summed it up right there. All season long so far, it has been the small mistakes that are costing points on the board. The team will be on the road this week.