When you win four consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section championships you get used to playing in big games.
So there was no panic on the Le Grand sideline as the Bulldogs found themselves in another nail-biter on Friday night. Le Grand made the big plays when it needed, including Jose Gonzalez’s sack and forced fumble late in the game that helped preserve a 15-14 win over previously unbeaten Ripon Christian.
“I think our experience paid off,” said Le Grand first-year coach Raul Alvarez, whose team won their third straight game to improve to 3-2 and 2-0 in the Southern League. “We’ve been in big games and we know what to do. The good thing is that’s twice we won it on defense with Gustine last week and Ripon Christian tonight.”
The Bulldogs tightened up their coverage after watching Knights quarterback Billy Marr carve up their secondary in the first half. Marr completed 12 of 17 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns to give Ripon Christian (4-1, 1-1) a 14-8 lead at the half.
Meanwhile, the Le Grand offense was moving backwards.
The Bulldogs gained 77 yards on their first three plays in the first half, including a 69-yard touchdown run by sophomore Carlos Iniguez. However, Le Grand had minus 12 yards on the final 17 plays of the half.
The Bulldogs and Iniguez turned it around in the second half as they drove 70 yards for a score on the opening possession of the third quarter. Le Grand quarterback Frankie Contreras found Victory Martinez for a key 30-yard pass on third down to keep the drive alive.
Three plays later, Iniguez broke free for a 19-yard touchdown touchdown run that gave the Bulldogs a 15-14 lead with 8:46 left in the third quarter.
Iniguez carried the ball 18 times for 177 yards before leaving the game late in the third quarter with a right knee injury. He didn’t return.
“It was his best game of the season,” Alvarez said. “Unfortunately we’ll have to wait and see what happens. He’s a tough kid.”
The Knights defense gave RC a chance with a goal-line stand midway through the fourth quarter. Le Grand was stopped twice from inside the 1-yard line.
Marr, who was held to just 5 of 11 passing for 47 yards in the second half, moved the Knights to midfield, but Le Grand’s Jose Gonzalez came around the end for a sack and forced a fumble that was pounced on by the Bulldogs’ Maurisio Ramirez at the RC 42-yard line with 1:47 left.
“I saw the quarterback standing there and I knew I was going to hit him,” Gonzalez said. “Next thing I know there’s a fumble and we got it. I didn’t see any of that, but it felt good.”
This story was originally published October 3, 2014 11:43 PM.