Isaiah Long isn’t a starter for the Buhach Colony football team, but he makes sure he’s ready for when his number is called.
Long delivered two of the biggest plays for the Thunder on Friday night, hauling in a 66-yard touchdown and later breaking free for the eventual game-winning touchdown on an 80-yard run midway through the fourth quarter to help propel Buhach Colony to a 37-30 win over Pacheco at Veterans Stadium.
“I really believe this team has made a choice to have different leaders every Friday night,” said Buhach Colony coach Kevin Navarra, whose team improved to 2-2 heading into Central California Conference play next week. “Last week it was our two running backs (Christian) Quirarte and (John) Buttrey last week.
“Isaiah Long had the big game tonight He had the two long touchdowns and he had to start on defense in the second half at defensive back.”
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The big play has hurt the Pacheco defense this season.
There were times against the Thunder when the Panthers (2-2) scored to pull closer or tie the game only to see the Thunder steal the momentum with a big play.
“It’s been our Achilles’ heel this season,” said Pacheco coach David Snapp, whose team lost its second consecutive game. “We played good for three plays and then the fourth play we give up a big play. I know we’re a better defense this year. Against Heritage we gave up three or four big plays. Tonight we gave up some big plays. It’s tough when you let the other team seize momentum back.”
Like last year’s game that saw the two teams combine for 123 points, it didn’t take long for the offenses to get going.
The Thunder needed just three plays to score as Youlas Dickson scored on a 60-yard run. Quarterback Clay Abrams found Long open for the two-point conversion and Buhach Colony had an 8-0 lead just 1 minute and 1 second into the game.
The Panthers responded on their opening drive, marching 77 yards on nine plays as quarterback Aric Barton capped the drive with a 16-yard touchdown run to pull Pacheco within 8-7.
The defenses had their moments, but it was still an offensive showdown.
Long gave the Thunder a 22-14 lead when he scored on a 66-yard touchdown catch from Abrams down the Thunder sideline.
“I had to come back for the throw,” Long said. “The quarterback kind of under threw it. I had to come back and execute.”
Pacheco soccer star Rodolfo Rivera pulled the Panthers within 22-17 at the half when he booted a 42-yard field goal on the final play of the second quarter.
Pacheco then opened the second half with a 65-yard drive with the help of two 15-yard penalties by Buhach Colony. One unsportsmanlike penalty came after the Thunder stopped the Panthers on fourth down.
Barton capitalized on the BC mistakes, scoring his third touchdown of the game on a 1-yard plunge to give Pacheco its first lead of the game at 23-22 with 4:28 left in the third quarter. Barton finished with 73 rushing yards on 14 carries. He also passes for 120 yards and one touchdown.
“We’ve got to be more disciplined,” Navarra said. “Those penalties killed us. I think their second and third touchdown drives we helped extend the drives with penalties. That’s going to have to be something we clean up.”
The Thunder answered right back with a 74-yard drive of their own as Abrams found LJ Wallace in the corner of the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown pass to take a 30-23 lead with 10:58 left in the game.
The Panthers drew up their own big play on their next possession as Barton found a wide open Jacob Levario for a 45-yard touchdown to tie the game at 30-30 with 8:48 left.
One play later, Long made his mark again as he ran around the left side and had nothing but green turf in front of him as he raced 80 yards for the go-ahead touchdown as the Thunder lead 37-30 with 8:35 remaining.
Long finished with 92 rushing yards on four carries. He also added 96 receiving yards on two catches.
“Pitch is usually my play, but that was a sweep,” Long said. “I just followed my lead blockers and then I saw the end zone.”
The Thunder defense held Pacheco to just 5 yards on its final 11 plays of the game to preserve the win.
Buhach Colony will open CCC play at home next week against Turlock. Pacheco will have a bye next week.