Madera scores final two touchdowns of the game to win

TAFT-Thursday's freshmen football game between Taft and Madera had it's share of excitement. What it didn't have for the Wildcats was a win after the Coyotes pulled away in the second half to edge out Taft 27-19.

“I was very proud of our boys,” said Taft coach Brad Van Roekel. “Madera is a tough central valley school with just over 2,000 kids. Our boys left it (effort) all on the field and that's what we ask them to do.”

With the loss, Taft falls to 2-1.

Taft had a chance to open the floodgates early by getting on the scoreboard first. After driving to the Madera 35-yard line, Dylan Botts connected on a pass to Danial Romo for a momentary touchdown. However, the score was taken away after Taft was called for an illegal motion penalty.

The Wildcats eventually got down to the Madera 27 thanks in part to Botts' nine-yard completion to Austin Pendergrass. Two plays later the drive came to a sudden end thanks to an interception with 5:01 to go in the first quarter.

It didn't take long before the Wildcats got the ball back after Madera fumbled two plays into their drive with Taft recovering the ball at their 34-yard line. Taft capitalized on the first play when Eduardo Romo rushed to the Madera 36. Despite the long run, the Wildcats were unable to score.

It was at that point the offensive fireworks started. On the opening play of Madera's next series, Deniz Carson raced 80 yards for a touchdown with 1:31 to go. Taft countered on their next drive when Pendergrass raced 72 yards on the Wildcats first play to score a touchdown. Taft tacked on the extra point to knot the game at seven.

The fireworks were set off again in the early stages of the second quarter starting with Madera's 55-yard touchdown run with 8:53 to go. Pendergrass followed with an 86-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. However, the Wildcats were unable to convert the extra point as they trailed by one.

Scoring trailed off until late in the first half when Botts scored on a keeper for a touchdown with 1:36 remaining. Despite taking over the lead, the Wildcats could not tack on the two-point conversion.

The missed opportunity came back to haunt Taft three plays into Madera's next drive after Carson ran 59 yards for a touchdown with 34 seconds left.

Unlike the first half when points were being put up at a fast pace, the second half was quiet with Madera putting up the only six points of the half in the fourth quarter.

“The mistakes we made against Madera are definitely fixable and correctable,” said Van Roekel. “We had no film or scouting of Madera, we just knew they play a good brand of football.”

Overall, Taft had 205 rushing yards and 85 passing yards for a total of 290. Meanwhile, Madera had 334 rushing yards and 42 passing for a total of 376.

Individually, Pendergrass had 6 carries for 74 yards while Romo had 9 carries for 64 yards. Pendergrass also had 2 catches for 60 yards. Triston Ginn had 2 catches for 25 yards.

Taft returns to action Friday when they travel up to Corcoran. The game begins at 5 p.m.