The Avenal Buccaneers (3--1), the No. 2 ranked team in Division VI, almost had their ranking reduced by the Minarets Mustangs (0-3) Sept. 14, narrowly escaping with a 28-20 win.
The Buccaneers face an inspired Mustang team that is still looking for that first varsity victory. In fact, the Mustangs led for three and a half quarters until Avenel's Chris Nieto scored with four minutes left in regulation. Although the Mustangs kept the 200 pound fullback in check most of the game, Nieto proved to be the difference in the game, often carrying a number of Mustangs on his back before being brought down.
The game started with a little razzle-dazzle from the Mustangs as they recovered an onside kick. Minarets proceeded to drive the ball downfield with a series of runs featuring 5-foot-10, 180 pound fullback Zach Armas, ending with a 21 yard quarterback keeper from 5-foot-11, 180 pound Keenan Reardon for the score. A successful PAT by Scott Parker and the Mustang lead early 7--0.
The Buccaneers struggled moving the ball through the first three quarters of the game.
The Mustangs second score of the game came on a 78 yard scamper by Armas to put them up 14-0.
Avenel got on the scoreboard with six minutes remaining in the second quarter with a 12 yard TD run by Nieto.
The teams exchanged a couple possessions, when the Mustang's Andrew Alvarez returned a Buccaneers punt 40 yards for a Mustangs TD. The PAT was unsuccessful and Minarets would go to the half with a 20-7 lead.
For three and a half quarters, it appeared the Minarets was on its way to their first varsity win for the young program, but slowly the Buccaneers offensive line (averaging 200 pounds per player) began to wear down the Mustangs defense line, allowing Nieto to gain the majority of his yards in the third and fourth quarters. He rushed for a second TD early in the fourth quarter to bring his team within six points of the Mustangs (20-14).
The Buccaneers, behind the running of Nieto, scored two more times and converted both PAT's to go up 28--20 with 4:40 to play in the game.
Although the Mustangs moved the ball well in the fourth quarter, the team twice facing fourth and 1, failed to get a first down. The first, from the Buccaneers 15 yard line and the second from Avenal's 34 yard line as time was running down.
Armas had 140 yards on 16 carries for the night
The Mustangs drove the ball well in the 3rd & 4th quarter behind the running of Armas, the running back had 140 yards on 16 carrys, Angel Saenz, wide--out Scott Parker, Nolan Corippo, and quarterback Reardon had their share of carries also as minarets had one of their best ground game of the young season, 289 yards on the ground, unfortunately they came up 2 yards short in the end.
In the end, it was a great game, Avenel's 1st scoring drive ate up 9 min. on the clock game clock, something the defense has struggled with the games past. And a Building Block For this team of young men Who Started This Program From the Ground up. They Gave the Mustang faithful plenty to cheer about. The disappointment was quite visible on the Mustangs faces, but again, "That that doesn't break us, makes us stronger"
You could pull many positives from this game, one, Coach Smoljan's defense played their best game of the season. Two, it was quite obvious the Mustangs gained some confidence from dominating the 2nd ranked team in division 6 for 3&1/2 quarters of play. 3rd, What a Crowd, What Great Support from the Community, The Bleachers Were Full As The Minarets Youth Program along with Their Coaches Were Introduced at Halftime. There are many intangibles as you build a program that can be found on the stat sheets, heart, passion, desire, and will. As these young men go to battle Friday in search for that first win, they will take the field with a newfound confidence, that they can compete.
The kids battled every minute in the game against the Avenel team that was very big on the line of scrimmage were getting better each week and competing and that is all we ask for its coaching staff, said coach Smoljan.. Big challenge this week with team that played in the section championship last year, added smoljan.
Something to build, on as the Mustangs host division 6 champion, Farmersville, 0-3 this Friday @ Minarets. the Aztecs will be without their starting quarterback, who led the team to a division title as a freshman and still looking for their first win of the season.. Varsity kicks off at 7 while JV plays at 5.