CALEXICO – Both the Calexico Bulldogs and the Castle Park Trojans came into this week’s matchup unsure of where they were at as a team. Calexico fell in a low-scoring affair to Palo Verde, 15-6, at home last week. Castle Park was held scoreless, 32-0, in its season opener against Rancho Buena Vista. After tonight’s game, both teams seem to be going in opposite directions… and in a hurry.
Behind a staggering five first-quarter fumbles, the Calexico Bulldogs were able to get on top of the visiting Castle Park Trojans early and often, as they cruised to a 60-6 victory at Ward Field in Calexico.
The game started with an effective drive by the Calexico Bulldogs, who drove the ball 40 yards down the field where they were stopped on 4th down after a short run missed the line to gain by one yard.
Castle Park would begin their first possession with a procedural penalty, but would get it right on their first play from scrimmage. Motioning left to right, junior running back Jalen Hopkins would take the pitch from quarterback Jose Jackson down the Castle Park sideline 66 yards for the Trojans’ lone score of the game. They would miss the PAT, keeping the score at 6-0.
“It was a bit of a wake up call for us,” said Calexico running back Ernie Sanchez. “Our guys weren’t mentally prepared at that moment and it showed [with the long TD run by Hopkins]. Once that happened, we were ready and pulled through to get this win.”
Castle Park would only have the lead for 13 seconds because on Calexico’s next possession, Sanchez would take the handoff and sprint 80 yards down the field to even the score at 6-6 after the Bulldogs missed their extra point.
“He brings a different type of spark to our offense,” said Calexico’s head coach Fernando Solano. “His explosiveness is something you can’t teach. As he gets into a rhythm throughout the season, he’s the guy we’re going to need to give us that spark.”
The game would get ugly from there as Castle Park would muff their next kickoff, the first of four turnovers in the first quarter, leading to short fields for the Bulldogs that they would capitalize on.
Abram Zazueta and David Esquer would take two quarterback keepers of 29 and 22 yards, respectively, for touchdowns. Andrew Rivera would reach the endzone off a 28-yard run and David Esquer connecting with a diving Pedro Cruz for an 11-yard TD pass to make the score 34-6 at the end of the first quarter.
“Our main goal was to create turnovers and then take advantage of the opportunities given to us,” said Solano. “We’re going to play what’s given to us. Obviously, the running game was very effective for us tonight; we would like to pass it more, so hopefully we can do that in a future game.”
The game would continue to go along similarly to the first quarter. Other than Jalen Hopkins, who finished with 6 carries for 76 yards before leaving the game with an injury, the rest of the Trojans’ offense would gain only 126 yards for the game.
Ernie Sanchez would only go back into the game once in the 2nd half. He would make the most out of that one opportunity as he stiff-armed two Trojans’ defenders on his way to a 38-yard TD run. Sanchez would finish the game with 179 rushing yards on 10 carries and two touchdowns.
“We just had to fix the simple mistakes that our team made last week,” said Sanchez. “We had a really good week of practice, executed the game plan and the end result was a great win for us tonight.”
Calexico (1-1) will travel for the first time this season on Friday, Sept. 3, when they head north to take on the Calipatria Hornets. This will be the Hornets’ first game of the season after their home-opener against Desert Mirage was canceled this week due to COVID-19 concerns.
“That is an advantage to us since we don’t have to deal with the first-game jitters like they do,” said Solano. “However, we don’t know anything about Calipat; they haven’t played in two years. So, we’re just going to feel them out as the game goes along.”