An early lead served the Kimball Jaguars well in their 44-32 win on Friday over the visiting Wood Wildcats in the quarterfinal game of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 playoffs.
Though the Jaguars (10-1, 5-1 Valley Oak League) outpaced the Wildcats (8-3, 3-2 Monticello Empire League) on offense for most of the game, the Wood team stayed persistent with its scoring opportunities in the second quarter, and then again in the fourth quarter.
Toward the end of the game a thick fog settled on the field Don Nicholson Stadium, and lack of visibility affected the plays teams could run. Long passes, which the Jaguars ordinarily use to launch and sustain quick drives across the field, became impractical, and the teams used onside kicks after touchdowns so that the ball wouldn’t get lost in the fog.
“Next time when we’re dealing with a situation like this we’ve just got to keep our foot on the pedal. We’ve never been in an environment like this. It’s kind of weird,” Kimball Coach LaTe’f Grim said.
“That was kind of difficult, and that’s when we told our running backs to step it up a little bit. We had some good runs, but now they’ve got to understand it’s playoff ball. It might get slick. It might get wet. We don’t know what it’s going to look like so we’ve got to make sure that we finish it.”
Senior quarterback Nicholas Coronado’s passing game was on-target, leading the Jaguars to a 22-0 lead in the first quarter. He passed for 414 yards on 19 of 22 passes. Most of his passes went to senior Mason Rivera, nine passes for 149 yards, and to senior Willie Clifton, six passes for 128 yards. The Jaguars also covered 118 yards rushing. The Wildcats covered 316 yards of offense, including 145 yard rushing and 171 yards passing.
On Kimball’s first possession the Jaguars covered 41 yards in seven plays, including a 25-yard pass from Coronado to junior Travis Marieiro and a 7-yard touchdown pass to Rivera, plus a 2-point conversion pass to senior Dylan Anderson.
The Jaguars ran just three plays on their second possession, with Coronado passing to Rivera for a 69-yard touchdown. Senior Jerome Nance grabbed an interception to set up a 55-yard drive, which the Jaguars covered in seven plays, with Nance making the 1-yard touchdown run.
Wood got on the scoreboard in the second quarter with a 13-play, 62-yard drive, including senior quarterback Ken Tilford’s 1-yard touchdown run.
Kimball answered with a six-play 80-yard drive that included a 33-yard pass from Coronado to senior Willie Clifton, and after a penalty had pushed the Jaguars back, Coronado again connected with Clifton, who broke a tackle in the middle of the field and sprinted up the left side for a 49-yard touchdown. Senior Zachary Lychak ran in the 2-point conversion to put Kimball up 30-6.
The Wildcats then drove 74 yards on 11 plays, with Tilford completing a pass to senior Jayjay Olaes to an 11-yard touchdown to make it a 30-12 game at the half.
Kimball opened the third quarter with an 11-play 86-yard drive, again with Coronado connecting with Clifton and Rivera to get down the field, and then with Anderson on a 43-yard pass to the end zone.
Wood came back with a 12-play 75-yard drive, with Tilford scoring on an 11-yard run and passing to senior Camren Intermesoli for the 2-point conversion to cut Kimball’s lead to 38-20.
The fog drifted in from the nearby fields during the game and got thicker in the second half. By the end of the third quarter the opposing sideline was obscured, the scoreboard was not visible from midfield and long passes and kicks disappeared into the fog.
The Wildcats went for an onside kick and the Jaguars recovered the ball, giving them 51 yards to cover for their next touchdown. Kimball ran five plays, including a 19-yard run for freshman Jermaine Nance, and Coronado completed an 18-yard pass to Rivera and an 8-yard touchdown pass to Marieiro to put Kimball up 44-20.
Kimball then switched to a rushing game with sophomore Dalton Anderson at quarterback. Wood kept with a passing game but had little success until Tilford connected with senior Krishna Clay on a short pass, which Clay ran up the middle for a 31-yard touchdown.
Kimball again recovered the onside kick but got off only a couple of rushing plays before Clay intercepted a pass and ran it back from midfield for another touchdown, cutting Kimball’s lead to 44-32 with just over 4 minutes left.
The Jaguars continued with their running game with Lychak carrying the ball, but did not sustain the drive. The Wildcats continued with their passing attempts but also could not keep the drive going, and the Jaguars were then able to get the ball back run out the clock in the final minute.
Next up for the Jaguars will be the Merced High Bears, who defeated the East Union Lancers 56-15 in Merced. Also in the Division 4 bracket, Vista del Lago High defeated Placer 36-21, and Vanden defeated Dixon 61-0, setting up a semifinal match between Vanden and Vista del Lago.